Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho

Yes, I've been busy and not posting. Yes, I've been away. The Jazzman and I spent Thanksgiving with his family, so Christmas meant seeing my family.

When one's mother is 97½, every significant day is perceived as, "this might be her last [insert name of significant day]".

As my sister-in-law, who lives in Tampa, and I were ironing out the details of the trip, we kept watching the weather forecast. And the plans for the trip seemed to change every eight hours. When we spoke on December 19, we were going to the mountain cottage and my older brother's home. By the 20th, we were questioning going to the mountains. By the 21st, we were definitely going to Hendersonville instead of the mountains, but the day was uncertain. And so it went. On the morning of the 23rd, the Jazzman and I looked at each other and said, "We'll leave this afternoon." We started throwing clothes and necessaries into bags. I finished work that a client was expecting, and he ran errands. He arrived home around 1:15, we threw the bags in the car, and took off.

It was lightly snowing when we left Youngstown, but there was virtually no snow through the rest of Ohio and West Virginia. We called ahead and made reservations at the Fairfield Inn in Wytheville, VA, where I-77 meets I-81. Friday morning we got up and out and arrived in Asheville at noon. We browsed in New Morning Gallery—one of my faves—and met my brothers, sister-in-law and mother at 12:45 for lunch across the street at the Grand Bohemian Resort in Asheville.

After lunch, we went back to Hendersonville to Mother's assisted living apartment. After we sent her off for her dinner at 5:00, we went back to our hotel, the Mountain Lodge in Flat Rock. We had a leisurely visit through the evening, an event that is rare for us.

On Christmas morning, we visited over breakfast again, then my older brother left for the airport, and the rest of us went back to Mother's to visit and have dinner with her. After dinner I played the piano for a while, then the Jazzman and I took off, through briskly and heavily falling snow, to visit the Biltmore Estate, which he had never seen before.

It was an exquisite visit. The snow and the fact that it was Christmas day had kept the number of visitors for the day down to 1,000. (They were expecting 6,000 for the next day!) We enjoyed seeing the rooms all decorated for Christmas and I saw four rooms that had opened since my last visit. Afterward, we went over to Antler Village and had soup and sandwiches at Cedric's Tavern.

Sunday morning my brother and sister-in-law left to drive back to Tampa, and we headed to Hilton Head Island, which is my idea of heaven-on-earth. I've been coming to HHI since 1989, and dearly love the time I spend here. We arrived about 4:00, did a little grocery shopping, then checked-in to my timeshare unit.

The beginning of the week was unbelievably cold, but each day has gotten a little better. What have we done?
  1. Go down to the welcome breakfast in the lobby; watch a couple of movies and fix a sandwich in the room; walk over to Harbourtown and have dinner at Crazy Crab; watch another movie. In short: veg out. Do what vacationers are supposed to do—nothing!
  2. Go to the spa at Marriott's Barony Beach Resort and get massages; come back to the room and hang out; a trip to the Marriott Surf Watch resort to sign up for a new exchange program; a walk along South Beach to watch the sunset; a visit to Tyler's and my favorite "Wise Guys" for dinner; come back and watch a movie.
  3. Drive to Savannah; drive around and look at some of the historic squares and their fountains; walk along the riverfront; have an Irish lunch at Kevin Barry's; drive back to HHI; nap/work; walk around Harbourtown; nosh and watch a movie; go down and soak in the hot tub.
  4. Go to Stacks for a great Southern coastal breakfast; golf for the Jazzman, work for me, some of it on the balcony overlooking Calibogue Sound.
Doesn't that sound like a great vacation? We don't really know what we're going to do from one day to the next, and it's been a ball!

On the first morning of next year, we'll head back to cold and snow, but tomorrow the high temperature here will be 69 degrees, so we're going to enjoy every minute of it.

This has been a most amazing year for me. I am honored each day to have the Jazzman in my life, to be loved and cared-for as he does for me. I am privileged to live near my grandchildren and to have them call out "Grandma!" each time they see me. I'm lucky to have so many good friends, near and far. My children are stable and successful. I have a good life!

May the New Year see us all as employed as we'd like to be, achieving our best and living our dreams.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Out of the Mouths . . .

Yesterday I took the g'babes to school—just helpin' out. On the way, Ridley told me she's getting an iPod Touch. Boston started telling me about the conversation Ridley had with her mother about allocation of a check she had received for Christmas. Ridley interrupted Boston and said, "No, that's not the money." He retorted, "I was just telling Grandma the whole conversation." She said, "Oh," and paused for a beat before saying, "Carry on."

Where do these kids get their vocabulary? They crack me up on a regular basis!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's not even winter yet!



Just in case you don't live in Ohio, I'll give you a little clue. It's cold!

By the time this winter storm advisory ends on Wednesday morning, we should have about two feet of snow. Would you like to know what shoveling that is like if one is not fortunate enough to own a snow blower? It's exhausting and hard on the shoulders and back. I'm not looking forward to this exercise!

But I am very grateful to work from home, where the cats and I glance out the window at the squirrels running around looking for acorns.

Stay warm!

- - -
P.S. I neglected to mention that we are having wind gusts up to 45-50 mph. Each time one of those blows snow past my office in a whoosh!, Angel just jumps out of his deep sleep next to the window. It's terribly funny, in a very sick sort of way.

Lotsa Music

From Sunday a week ago to yesterday I had five rehearsals and six performances. I was thinking that was a lot until I realized that many of my COChorus colleagues had even more!

A few months ago I had agreed to accompany Jason Budd in two holiday concerts. Jason is a local boy who has done very well in the world of opera, both as a singer and, lately, as director. He and Tyler met while they were students at YSU's Dana School of Music. Tyler remembers accompanying Jason a few times at YSU, and I was glad to continue the tradition.

The concerts were to be held at the Chloe Pierce Memorial Chapel in Sharpsville, PA. The chapel is the home to the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. It's a beautiful old building with fabulous stained glass windows and a Pomplitz organ built in Baltimore in 1884. I believe it was the 227th organ that Pomplitz (active from 1850 to 1887) made.

When Jason and I started communicating about the concert program—after I had agreed to play for him—I freaked when he said "organ". I took organ lessons when I was 7 and 8, and again in high school. I've played plenty of organs in my life, but never loved it. I always felt daunted by all the switches and stops and things to push, pull and flip. I even volunteered to bow out so he could find a real organist.

(You have to see the flyer for the concert. What a hoot! Really, in whose mind am I a noted organist? Certainly not mine!)

Oh, how glad I am he didn't take me up on my offer. Playing this organ, though challenging, was a kick. It only has eight stops, and it was kind of hit-and-miss for me to get a sound Jason and I wanted out of it. It would only go so soft—I think mezzoforte is its softest. But how fun. Playing the pedals came back to me as if I were eight years old again.

We ended up only doing two pieces with organ: we closed the first half with "O Holy Night", and the second half with "Joy to the World". The local residents who attended the concert kept thanking me for playing it. They were thrilled to hear this instrument again. Evidently it is not frequently played, and really, has a great sound for a 136-year-old gal.

A little note of humor: The tree in the chapel was decorated with vintage lights and ornaments. Wrapped packages were placed underneath and, next to the packages, a fifty-pound bag of coal. Very cute.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And it just keeps comin'

I took this photo out my office window yesterday during that brief two-hour period when there was actually a sun in a blue sky. If I had taken the picture today, you would have seen snow in the background. And that southern storm is rumored to be scheduled to hit on Sunday morning.

I just want to make one statement about walking in the snow. Why, oh why, do people think that a snowfall greater than five inches means they have the right-of-way over all surfaces? I can't tell you the number of times in the past week I've seen people walk:
a) in the street three feet away from the curb;
b) across an intersection against the light;
c) jaywalking.

Don't these idiots realize cars slide on snowy, icy streets? Do they have a freaking death wish?

I just don't get it.

- - -
And today I'm driving to Sharpsville, PA, for a rehearsal, then to Severance Hall for the first Holiday Concert with my favorite orchestra. Then back home at midnight. You envy me, I know!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Calm After (and Before) the Storm

My dear Tucson friend, Jill, texted me this morning and said, "Saw you have snow." Oh, if she only knew!

It's been snowing every day since last Friday, as I recall. When I left just after 5:00 yesterday afternoon for a 7:00 call* at Severance Hall, there was a snow cover in Youngstown of about 10 inches. It had been snowing off-and-on all day, but I was sure I would be fine.

Silly, Silly Southern Belle!

The 711 connector was fine. 680 was fine. The Turnpike was fine. 480 was fine. But then I got onto 271 and the commute when straight to hell. A snow-covered, salt- and plow-free hell! A standstill hell. The snow was coming down so hard that the plows could neither keep up with the snow or get through the traffic to clear the roads.

It. Was. Horrible. !!!

When I was on Chagrin, ready to turn onto Warrensville, it was 6:52. I know that because as I was sitting at the red light, I texted the chorus manager to say I would be 20 minutes late. It was the most incredibly stressful drive. And yet, as I checked Facebook updates of other commuting choristers at every stoplight, I saw that those who were driving in from Medina or Akron or the west side of Cleveland were having a much worse time than I. Several friends spent over five hours in their cars and never reached the hall.

I finally got to the hall—after narrowly avoiding crashing my car several times—at 7:20. When I got to the rehearsal hall, I quietly and slowly opened the door to keep from disturbing our director. Well, no one was warming up or rehearsing. There were 18 people seated in the hall. For this concert, the chorus numbered about 110. 18 people! As each new person staggered through the door, those already in their seats applauded. We have never so warmly greeted each other as last night!

Our manager threw away the seating chart. The orchestra manager delayed curtain from 8:00 to 8:15. We massed our normal five rows into three, and processed onto the stage, thankful for every person seated in the audience (about 1/4 to 1/3 of the normal audience size).

At intermission, we picked up another 20 singers who had arrived after curtain and added a fourth row for the second half.

And then I had to drive home. The streets in Shaker Heights and Beachwood had been plowed, so were easier to drive. But 271 only had one lane cleared, and the snow was just pelting me. And I was falling asleep.

After having left home just after 5:00, I got back home at 12:35.

After least I got home with car and body intact.

Your photo treat for today is the view (above) from my office and (below) from my kitchen. That's Jean and Marilyn's house and garden, completely totally overwhelmingly (at least for early November) covered with snow.

And they say there's a southern storm coming on Saturday. Argh.



*Vocabulary: If you don't know the term "call", this signifies the time a performer is to arrive at the concert venue or theatre, in place, ready to warm up. "Curtain" means the time the show is scheduled to begin.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's a Small World After All

Tonight is the "Holiday Movie Magic" concert at Severance Hall. I missed the Conductor's Piano Rehearsal (known as CPR) on Monday night, as I had to accompany a Stambaugh Chorus performance.

When I arrived at dress rehearsal last night, a fellow chorus member came up to me and said, "The conductor wants to see you." Immediately my heart started pounding. Was the guest conductor not going to allow anyone who missed CPR to sing the concert? But our chorus manager knew I was going to be absent and our director had approved my absence. My mind just raced.

I googled the conductor and learned he lives in Los Angeles and does a lot of work with Pacific Symphony, where my friend Eileen is Vice President of Artistic and Orchestra Operations. I started thinking maybe Eileen had told him to look me up.

At rehearsal break, I went to the front of the stage and introduced myself. As soon as I said my name, his face broke into an enormous smile and he said, "Eileen says hello."

It made my day! Eileen and I worked together at the Tucson Symphony, and I bought her house in midtown Tucson when she moved to Orange County.

I love the small musical world we live in. Just love it!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ever Had One of Those Days?


Let me tell you about my day.

But first let me tell you about last night. I left home at 10:45 yesterday morning for a day of rehearsals and a performance at Severance Hall. When I left the Severance parking lot at 9:35 last night to head back to Youngstown, I was astonished at how hard it was snowing. I wound my way through Shaker Heights and Beachwood to get on 271 and thought that, even with the snowfall, I'd have a relatively easy drive home. The instant I got onto 271, I knew I was in trouble. The high speed ranged from 40 down to 20. The snow was that kind that comes right at you in big clumps. Only one lane had been cleared and I kept forging ahead, thinking that the turnpike would be much better. Well, the turnpike had been cleared more than 271, but the snow was so heavy at that point I could see no lines and had to keep watching the guardrail on my right to know that I was on the road. Miraculously, no cars were in ditches causing big problems. It took me over two hours to get home, and I was worn to a complete frazzle by the time I arrived.

I woke this morning at 6:30 to see more-more-more snow, and immediately dressed to go shovel. At this time of year, I regret having bought a corner lot, as that means twice the sidewalk to shovel. When I got it cleared and walked back to the house, it was already covered with snow again.

I went to my morning staff meeting at the Lemon Grove, and was surprised to see my grandchildren. Their dad had taken them to school, after checking all the normal places where school closures are announced. Of course, with no notice, there was a two-hour delay. I volunteered to take them to school at 10:15, as I had a 10:30 doctor's appointment.

As I started on the road to their school, I realized I had almost no gas, so had to take care of that on the way.

Dropped them off, met with the doctor's PA, to learn that they don't really know what's causing my problem but figure it will wear itself out. Hmm. When I parked the car at the doctor's office, I realized my right rear tire was dangerously low.

So, after the doctor, I went a half-mile up the road to the Acura dealer and had them fix my tire problem and change my oil.

Drove through Wendy's for a burger, then to Giant Eagle for basics. By now it's 12:45 and I've only done about an hour's work today. As I'm putting the groceries in the car, I realize I need to return a bath mat to BB&B. I'm less than a mile away from the store. Do I return it now, or drive the 9 miles back home and come back another day. Yep - ran back to BB&B and got the right color bath mat.

Got home, threw soup fixings for tonight into the crockpot, and finally got to work about 2:30.

In two hours I've got to stop what I'm doing, pull my music together for tonight's performance in Austintown, trek to the basement to lug my keyboard and other accouterments up, and quickly run through the repertoire for tonight before going to pick up my grandpageturner.

And it continues to snow. The weather guy on the television I saw at the car dealer called this the "perfect lake effect storm". Great. Just Great.

As far as I'm concerned, the best thing that could happen to me today would be for the Immaculate Heart of Mary Altar and Rose Society to cancel their Christmas party tonight. Now that would make me happy!

The pictures above? The two pumpkins the Jazzman put on the back porch before Hallowe'en, and our snowed-upon mailbox.

Stay warm!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Saturday in the City

Saturday morning was another free hotel breakfast, then a subway trip down to the Financial District, where we visited the 9/11 Visitors' Center.

As we were walking from the subway stop to the visitors' center, it felt like a pilgrimage. All around us were people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and nationalities, all heading to the same destination. Beside us were workmen working with their hands and their big equipment (on a Saturday, no less), erecting new buildings to replace those that had been destroyed.

To see the information and mementos so beautifully displayed in the center was a most sobering experience. I was filled with thoughts of the losses so many people experienced, and of how our country and our lives—our world—has changed since that horrific day.

I feel honored to have been able to view this site. I feel sorrow for the losses. I feel glad to live in the United States of America.

---

Back to the hotel, try to connect with Thursday's cabbie (to no avail), research bus service to JFK, throw things in bags, run downstairs and grab a cab outside the hotel door. When we told him we want to go to Grand Central to get the bus to JFK, he offered to take us all the way out to JFK for $45. This seemed like the perfect deal to us, so we took him up on it.

He was a lovely Indian man, a computer engineer by training, who told us that as a child in India he had dreamed of being a Formula 1 racecar driver. What a perfect dream for a Manhattan cabbie!!! He maneuvered his way around and through the city traffic, depositing us at JFK in less than 45 minutes!

No we're waiting for our flight, happy to have had a brief getaway to the wonder that is New York City.

Friday in the City

Started out the day with free breakfast in the hotel—a treat I'm unaccustomed to in the City. Then strolled up 6th Avenue, stopping to browse in Macy's before making our way to Nanette Lepore's studio and workrooms on 35th Street. The Jazzman is good friends with Jim Lepore, Nanette's father. Jim had called and arranged for one of Nanette's assistants to give us a tour of the facility.

Those of you who know me know I love all things fiber. You also, then, know what an absolute treat this was for me. To see rolls of trims, rows of dress forms, a dye room, shelves of silk yardage, graphic designers at computer screens, pattern makers standing at table with pencil and ruler, photographer taking marketing shots, …. I was thrilled. Thrilled!

After visiting with several friends who work there, we headed up Broadway, trying to decided if we would try to see a show on Friday evening. We got to the TKTS kiosk, but they weren't opening for evening tickets until 3:00 p.m. We followed the routine PianoLady and I have set of lunching on soup, salad, and breadsticks at Olive Garden, across the street from the TKTS kiosk. Our waiter was Martin Dove, a delightful young man (okay, 40ish) who had lived in Cleveland and worked in Mentor for a while. He is a writer and actor who has followed his dream to NYC, and is finding success after success. We enjoyed very much our time spent chatting with him and look forward to following his future successes.

Afterward, we walked further up Broadway, spending a little time in Colony Music, then to the Broadway Theatre, where we bought tickets for "Promises, Promises". The subway took us back to our hotel, where we rested for a few minutes and I changed shoes(!!). Then we decided to visit MOMA before dinner. When we got to the door of MOMA, expecting to pay $20 per person for entrance, we learned it was Target Free Friday. We got in for free, and saw lots of amazing modern art. When we reached sensory overload, we walked down 5th and over to Saju Bistro, where PianoLady and I had enjoyed dinner six weeks ago. Goat cheese ravioli for me, of course, and the Jazzman's fave Creme Brulee for dessert, then a stop for a drink at Flute Bar before finding our seats in the theatre.

To my utter joy and delight, this was a night when Kristin Chenoweth was performing in "Promises, Promises". What a treat to see and hear her in person. I couldn't have asked for more!

The show let out at 10:45. We headed toward the subway, with a stop in An American Craftsman to admire the hadcrafts. Then to the hotel to sleep. Busy, enjoyable, much fun—whattaday!

Quick Weekend Getaway

Okay, can you look at the photo and tell where we ran away to for the weekend? That's right! New York City! In December! With all the decorations up!

The Jazzman had a few days of vacation he had to take, and I had a couple of days I could sneak away without neglecting any duties. AND American Airlines sent me an e-mail offering $39 air fare to select cities. So Thursday morning we drove through falling snow to Cleveland, and an hour-and-a-half later we were in sunny, but bitterly cold, NYC.

And I didn't get patted down by TSA this time, 'cause the Jazzman kindly washed (and dried) my favorite merino wool jacket-sweater. Oops.

We got a delightful Frenchman as cabbie for the hour-and-twenty-minute $50+ ride from JFK into the city. We had Priceline'd a hotel and got the Hampton Inn in Chelsea for $150! Including daily breakfast!

Something new we did on this trip that I had never done before was to take the subway everywhere. I didn't realize that this weekend would be a Big Deal tourist weekend—the crowds were massive everywhere we went. So we just pulled out the maps, logged on to mta.info, and went almost everywhere by train. Piece o' cake! I can't even imagine how much money we saved on cab fare. And we got everywhere much faster than if we were up above, fighting traffic.

Thursday evening we went to Morandi for dinner. What a lovely dining experience! The Jazzman had the fish special, and I think I had some sort of pasta—after a busy two days, I am having a hard time bringing back the details. But what I do remember was the dessert. Ciambella al Cioccolato, a la Morandi, is maybe two or three inches across. TO the best of my recollection, it's a little round circle of coconut, topped by a similar round circle of hazlenuts. In the center is a warm, thick chocolate sauce. There was some chocolate drizzled over the plate, and a side of coconut gelato. I may have part of this wrong, but the essence is the same: heaven! You'll simply have to visit Morandi to see for yourself.

After dinner, we again hopped on the subway and went up to Rockefeller Center to see the tree, the skaters, and the lavish Christmas windows in Saks Fifth Avenue.

Don't get me wrong. It was cold-cold-cold outside, but worth every frigid minute.

A great first day of a quick getaway.

When you get a minute, here's NBC's video of the Christmas tree being placed and decorated.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The First Day of December

…and Northeast Ohio woke to snow.

I'm in my toasty office with the new, well-insulated windows. Angel is lying curled up in the cat basket, looking at all the birds in the tree just outside the window, dreaming of lunch (were he ever allowed outside!).

All is well with the world.



Look at those ears! Don't tell me that boy's not thinkin' about hunting!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Are You Reading?

After PianoLady told me she was reading Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom", I picked it up off Audible.com and have been slowly making my way through it. In contrast to the daily two hours of drive time during which I listened to book after book, my only dedicated time now is my Monday night drive to and from Cleveland for rehearsals. The audio book is over 24 hours in length! At one day a week, that's three months of rehearsals to complete the book!

Do you know how easy it is to forget the facts you've already learned when you put a book down for a week? Very easy!

I will say that the thing I don't like about audio books is the fact that you can't look ahead to see what's coming. In a hardcopy book, when I get bored, I'll glance ahead to see if my interest is going to pick up in the coming pages. That's not an option here.

The other thing that's frustrating is when I hear a passage that I'd like to remember or quote in a blog or Facebook. Unless I pick up the iPhone, look at the display and write down which section I'm in and how many minutes into that section, I'll never find the quote again. I can't exactly highlight it!

I did look at the Wikipedia page on "Freedom", and learned the scene will soon move to Washington, DC. I love reading or watching works set in cities that I love, and I totally love DC. So my boredom will fade soon.

What are you reading?

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's In His Genes!

Saturday afternoon the Stambaugh Chorus, which I accompany, gave their first performance of this season at Barnes & Noble. The program included an hour's-worth of music, including two movements of the Poulenc "Gloria", three choruses from Handel's "Messiah", and the long-and-involved "Many Moods of Christmas". There was a lot of ink on those pages!

At each rehearsal, I had problems with page turns. The Poulenc, especially, would benefit from the pianist having three hands, not just two. I was very concerned about being able to play for the performance without a page turner.

As I tried to figure out what I was going to do to solve this problem, I remembered an audition I played for Tyler two years ago when Boston stepped up and adroitly turned pages for me. I thought I might secure his services again, especially with the enticement of iTunes gift cards exchanging hands.

I want to tell you, this kid is unbelievable! For one hour, he stayed completely focused on what I was doing. In addition, he was able to watch the conductor and adjust the volume knob on the keyboard when my hands were too busy to reach for it, or when I failed to see the signal from the conductor.

He has been playing piano for several years, can read music, has two grandparents and a father who are musicians, and proved himself on Saturday to be a natural, gifted, intuitive musician.

He was the darling of the chorus, and appeared to love every minute of his engagement. He applauded after the songs, sang the Christmas carols during the audience participation numbers, and laughed at the appropriate moments.

The kid is a natural, and he made his grandma very, very proud.

His reward? A Star Wars book with Legos inside. Just right for a nine-year-old page turner.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Haven for my Soul

I'm a firm believer in havens. Everyone should have a space he or she can retreat to, where almost nothing is out of place, no door ajar, where there are no distractions to prevent complete relaxation, comfort and ease.

Last night as I sat down in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus rehearsal space at Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, and as our assistant conductor launched us into our stretches and warmups, and then into the music for the upcoming Holiday Movie Magic concert, I felt my soul relax into its haven.

My life has been incredibly busy lately. A week of managing my grandchildren's schedule while simultaneously juggling all my normal work duties and musical rehearsals nearly "done me in." And a slowdown isn't really in sight until after the final COC holiday performance on December 19th. I need a space and a time to slow down, to let everything else go for a short period of time.

Last night's rehearsal was that time, that space.

When a COC member walks into a rehearsal, she knows exactly what is expected. She knows that while the chorus is warming up and preparing to sing, no latecomer will walk through the rows to disrupt the concentration on preparing for proper vocal technique. She knows all cell phones will be off—not to ring, not to ping an incoming text, not to be referred to until the conductor takes a mid-rehearsal break. She knows exactly what music will be practiced, and she knows she was expected to practice that music at home—to read through the music so that there are no surprises, and to listen to the study recordings provided by the COC management. She knows the singers around her will not disturb her with idle chatter. She knows all members will treat the conductor and the accompanist with the ultimate respect of sitting quietly until it's their turn to sing.

That's just how it's done.

But even more importantly, she knows the pace of the rehearsal has been very well thought-out. The repertoire has been chosen to be suitable for the talent and skill of the singers in the organization, as have the singers been chosen to suit the calibre of performances produced by the Cleveland Orchestra. The music is challenging so that we all grow. If the notes themselves are not so challenging, then there's always a challenge in producing the very best in enunciation, in phrasing, in tempi—in feeling—so that we are creating and crafting a final product that will make the members of the Cleveland Orchestra proud to call us their own, and will make the audiences want to keep coming back to hear us again.

Because of the skillful manner in which the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus rehearsals are organized, each singer can drive home after the rehearsal feeling good about his performance in the rehearsal, and about himself as a singer. There is no frustration, no thought of "why am I wasting my time in this organization?". There is no wasted time. There is no wasted effort. There is a feeling of accomplishment and success.

"I was given a hard job to do, and I did it very well."

I drive over 75 minutes each way to rehearsal each week. When we're in final preparation at Severance Hall, that amount increases by 15 to 30 minutes. I have lots of time to think.

As I drive home after each rehearsal and performance, I spend a few moments tipping my virtual cap to the people who make this haven possible: First, Manager of Choruses Jill Harbaugh, and her delightful new assistant, Rachel Novak. (I've worked in orchestra management. I know who turns the wheel!) They sort music; they read hundreds of e-mails and respond quickly and politely to even the most inane question; they order meals; they keep us organized and on target. Jill and Rachel are assisted by kind-hearted volunteers who work to carry some of the load. Next, Maestro Robert Porco and his assistant conductors, Frank Bianchi and Lisa Yozviak. Then—always present, always alert; always ultra-prepared—accompanists Joela Jones and Bill Shaffer. These two pianists are simply brilliant! Finally, I ponder the kindness, generosity and respect of my fellow choristers, and strive to give back to them as good as I get from them.

These thoughts of gratitude make my drive pass quickly.

We lead a charmed life in our musical haven!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Ways of the Mind

This morning I'm thinking about all the decisions our brains process in the course of a day—or even a minute.

This week I've been on grandma duty for a 9-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl—my little darlings. But the schedule that they are on to get their Recommended Daily Allowance of art, education and culture would choke a bus driver: Monday is Boston's band practice; he's learning trumpet. Tuesday is piano at SMARTS. Wednesday is modern dance. Thursday is Suzuki piano (the Jazzman keeps calling it Kawasaki piano, Boston keeps correcting him, and I keep laughing) followed by ballet for the Ridley. Friday, nothing. Great sigh of relief emanating from the grandma/driver/organizer.

I didn't even cover the morning schedule their mother has so carefully orchestrated. Up at 6:30 or earlier, downstairs and eat breakfast, practice piano or get dressed, alternating as there is one piano for two pianists. Out the door at 8:00 a.m. Race down the interstate and get in the drop-off line at its three-cars-at-a-time pace.

Hurry up. Wait. Hurry up. Wait. Stay alert.

Sigh.

(And I haven't even addressed trying to fit my work in amidst all the driving and organizing. I was awake at 5:00, laptop in bed, working on a client's Web content.)

So think about the number of decisions. The incident this morning that really got me going on this track occurred as I was getting out of the car, back at my house after spending the night at the babes' house.

I was carrying my big bag filled with four knitting projects (it's holiday-gifts-for-teachers time, y'know?), a plastic grocery bag carrying the new project that I work on while waiting in the drop-off/pick-up line; my leather tote bag with laptop and adapters; my purse; and my trash from my Friday morning you're-a-good-grandma treat at S'bux. To get to that point, however, I had to mentally sort through everything on the front seat. Does this piece of paper go in? No, You've got to take it to the doctor's office this morning after the window guy comes to install the kitchen windowsill. Does this bag of music go in? No, you've got to take it to a copy shop to make reduced-size copies so you get get ready for next Saturday's Stambaugh Chorus performance. And so on.

My keys were in my hand. I got to the door and realized I was wearing my sunglasses and had left my reading glasses in the car. Do I turn around and go back to get the glasses? No, this is too much stuff to carry. Do I set it down on the back porch and go to get the glasses? No, get it into the house and set it down once.

I maneuvered the door and the security system and placed bags on the kitchen counter and the floor, then went back to the car. Once I was back in the house, I started gathering bags again to go up the back stairs to my office. Then I realized I had left the half-empty S'bux mocha cup in the car. Go back [again] and get it out of the car or leave it to sip on, cold, later? Go back. Out. In. Out. In. Once in and ready to go up, decide whether to lock the back door or leave it unlocked so the window guy can just come in when he gets here.

See what I mean? And that was just in the course of five minutes or less!

Then you get to your desk. You've got multiple projects ahead. Do you work on the bookkeeping, which is ongoing, or finish the work you started at 5:00 a.m., or do a quick post to a client's Facebook page, or start something new that's done today.

Weighing. Balancing. Choosing.

Thoughts in closing?

  1. I wish all that brainwork burned more calories.

  2. I think I'll take the kids to a playground after school and just let them be kids!

P.S. The Jazzman and I have been talking about it all week. We think life was much simpler in the 50s and 60s!

P.P.S. And if I haven't said so explicitly, the Jazzman moved in last Saturday. And I have hardly seen him all week. There's something quite unfair to him about all this, but he's been understanding and wonderfully helpful about it, taking care of the kids two evenings while I attend obligatory rehearsals.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

If You Can't Say Something Nice . . .

A couple of weeks ago I picked up the babes from their Wednesday dance class to have our weekly dinner-with-Grandma. As we got into the car, Ridley said to Boston something on the order of "stop complaining". He responded, "I'm not complaining. I'm just telling the truth."

I smiled. I almost laughed out loud. I time-traveled back almost 40 years to Early First Marriage and a husband who didn't know himself, much less me. (Note to lawmakers: Allowing people to marry before, oh, age 25, might be a poor idea!) At some point shortly into the marriage he commented on how much I complained.

His statement caught me by surprise and made me stop and think about my words. I wasn't complaining. I was simply stating how I felt or what I noted.

If I tell you I have a headache, I am imparting knowledge to you. Yes, I may tell you that every day, but I frequently get headaches every day. It's merely a part of my life. It's not a complaint!

Ditto "I'm cold." "I'm tired." "This job is hard." "These pant are too short."

Just facts.

How interesting to learn that my grandson's brain is wired the same way.

- - - - -
Why a graphic of Thumper, beside the fact that I just love him? Here's the quote:

Thumper: He doesn't walk very good, does he?

Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!

Thumper: Yes, mama?

Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?

Thumper: [clears throat] If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Flagging Grandma Checks In

This is report number one from a stressed, exhausted, and frazzled grandma, for whom any of the candles mentioned in the graphic would be a perfect gift. Oh, and a few hours of unscheduled time. That would be a great gift, too.

My son and daughter-in-law left early Saturday morning to fly to New Orleans for her annual photography conference, sponsored by Pictage, the online photo lab that Jaci uses. I tell you what—I wish I had had the knowledge and brilliance to invent something like Pictage. What beautiful work they do, and their presentation is—simply—fabulous!

Anyway, T&J planned this trip before the dates for Ballet Western Reserve's production of "Snow White" was set in stone. Yep, the productions would be the same day T&J were flying south. My Saturday was filled with leotards and tights and costumes and sitting/waiting. And dodging a bunch of laughing, hopping, screaming baby ballerinas.

I attended the afternoon performance. The children did a fine job, but—truthfully?—I prefer trite, overperformed "Nutcracker" to "Snow White". But that's just me. I heard lots of accolades all around me. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it.

Sunday morning we went back to my house, where I worked for an hour, then took the babes with me out to Jas's to help him finish clearing out his apartment. Back at home I fed the babes pizza for lunch, then emptied my car and helped empty Jas's. Then I put the kids in the car and we went to Youngstown Model Railroad Association's open house. Wow, what a setup. If you like trains, at all, you need to go next Saturday or Sunday between 12:00 - 6:00 to see these two layouts. There's an O gauge layout at street level, then an even more elaborate layout in HO gauge downstairs. This was an absolute treat.

Back home, I practiced for a while and tried to interest Boston in turning pages for me. He helped a little, but was much more interested in playing with my metronome. Oh well.

Back to their house, feeding dogs, dealing with homework, watching America's Funniest Videos with Ridley while Boston finished his homework. Grandma was asleep by 9:30.

Woke up at 4:00 this morning, thanks to the time change. Kept trying to fall back asleep until my alarm went off at 6:00, when I snoozed it for another 20 minutes. Got up and dressed and found the babes in the living room eating their breakfast. Poured a bowl of dry cereal and made a cup of tea and went to sit with them.

Then as I was walking back to the kitchen, my besocked feet detected something wet on the floor. I leaned over to run a finger through it to smell for dog urine. As I leaned over, I spilled my tea—and realized that what I had stepped in was previously spilled tea! Stood up to continue into the kitchen and spilled more tea. Walked through the breakfast room and somehow I dropped my empty glass cereal bowl onto the tile floor, shattering it in 937 pieces, which covered the breakfast room and flew east and west into the kitchen and dining room. Took my cup to the sink, then went in search of a broom and dustpan, which were not.to.be.found! I selected a Swiffer Sweeper which I found in the mud room closet. I slowly and carefully pulled all the glass into a little pile, then looked for a dustpan-equivalent. All I could find was a sheet of printer paper, which allowed me with much effort to get the biggest pieces up and into the trashcan. Finally I had all the biggest pieces of glass up—after stabbing my finger with a shard of glass—and went to get the vacuum cleaner to suck up the rest of the glass. The only electrical outlet I could find was too far away from the breakfast room for me to reach the entire room. (I guess I should be glad, in the 83-year-old home, that I didn't have to use a vacuum powered by natural gas! Or a crank!) I finally remembered where the dining room outlet was (a dark outlet on a dark baseboard where old eyes can't see it.) and finished the task.

Okay, morning catastrophe concluded. Now wash dishes and pack lunches, all the while supervising piano practicing from afar. Inspect the children's outfits, take Ridley back upstairs to find a longer shirt so her little midriff isn't on display all day long. Grab my things, put the dogs in the backyard, set the alarm, and hit the road.

Took the kids to school, where the big kid who helped them out of the car—some snotty-nosed power-hungry redhead—laughed at the hat Boston was wearing and said, "You know you can't wear hats in school." He had already thought he'd leave it in his cubby, but the only thing good about this redheaded kid's mouth is I convinced Boston to leave his hat in the car. Geez! Kids should NEVERNEVERNEVER be put into positions of perceived power. It only turns them into ogres!

Last year when Jaci and Ty went to this conference, I took the week off of work. In retrospect, that was a very smart move, even though I got into trouble for it when I got back to work. But that's a whole 'nother horror story!

So here's the deal: if you don't hear from me the rest of the week, you'll know why. Just picture a grandma driving and driving and driving—to piano lessons and dance classes—and preparing meals and supervising homework and practicing and all the things that moms take for granted.

Jas and I were talking about it yesterday: Life was sooooo much simpler in the 50s and 60s!!!!!

P.S. The chronic hives? Vasculitis. Increase the 180mg of Allegra to twice a day. Get a prescription for prednisone. Get bloodwork.

F. That's all I have to say. F. You can fill in the missing letters!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Adding Insult to Itching

Remember my post back in June about the correlation between itching and a new yarn I was using? This problem has never gone away. By my calculations, this problem began on May 25, 2010.

It bothered me horribly in June when the Jazzman took me to Chicago to celebrate my 60th birthday. It continued bothering me in July when we went to the lake for a week. It persisted through three trips (May, July, August) to deal with moving Mother to an assisted living facility and most of her belongings back to my house. It bothered me whether I was knitting or not. It bothered me whether I was wearing cotton or wool, taking multivitamins or not, washing clothes in "free & clear" detergents or detergents filled with chemicals. It bothered me.

I had gone to my regular dermatologist back in early June. Let's just say that was a very unsatisfactory doctor visit. I got no answers. But in defense of the medical establishment, neither did I push for answers. I just lived with it.

In the past month it's gotten worse and worse. I figured it was the ringworm that Angel gave me come back to haunt me. I would wake in the middle of the night and scratch my ankles or knees until they bled.

Finally I got the name of a different dermatologist and went two days ago to get checked out. I just wanted the beautiful, smart young P.A. to give me a pill I could take to get rid of my "ringworm".

She took one look at my arms and legs, then looked at me sadly and said, "This isn't ringworm. This is chronic hives."

What?! Chronic hives?! I've never had hives in my life. In sixty years I've never had hives. And, boy howdy, do I have them now!

She gave me a prescription of antihistamine and a one pound jar of salve to rub into the itching welts. (I asked her if she expected me to bathe in the stuff!) She biopsied one of the welts, and gave me a long, detailed questionnaire to fill out regarding my diet and lifestyle and medications and any practices that might be causing this ridiculous condition.

So far the welts have stayed on my arms and legs. There's been nothing on my torso. Oh wait. Last night there was a 2" welt on my chest. And a big raised welt on the back of my neck, itching to beat the band. Lovely. And this morning I noticed a great big welt on my left butt cheek. Great! Just great!

If it spreads to my face, I may just crawl in a hole and stay there until it subsides.

The only goodness is that it's not catching. I can't give it to the Jazzman or my g'babes. That's the only goodness, so far as I see it.

Okay, it's not cancer. It's not a heart attack. It's not a toomah! (Tumor, for those of you who haven't seen Kindergarten Cop.) But it's annoying as hell, and it itches, and it's UGly.

I know there's nothing you can do. And I know you didn't really want to hear about this. Oh wait—those of you who really didn't want to hear about it quit reading already! But I needed to vent, so thank you for listening.

Now to find the cause. I've stopped all meds. (Except my estrogen. I refuse to give up my estrogen! If that tiny little patch is the cause, I'll just have chronic hives until I die. I ain't goin' back to hot flashes!)

The P.A. suggested stress could be a cause. Hmmm, let's see. On May 6th I started a new job with an enormous pay cut. I worry about finances every single day. (As I know most of you do - we're all on that stress boat together!) This summer I went through a major life change with my mother, had to spend days sorting through and packing all her [crap] and spending even more money to move it all back here. And I turned 60, no small issue. And today I'm taking in a roommate/lover/life partner. (Yes, I will readily assert that not all stress is bad. Some is quite wonderful, thankyouverymuch, but it's still stress.)

I guess the next item on my to-do list is exercise to try to alleviate some of the effects of the stress.

Geeez. Hit me again.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Future of the Symphony Orchestra

When the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus performed last month with the Youngstown Symphony under the baton of Maestro Randall Craig Fleischer, I had a blast. I had only seen Maestro Fleischer in action twice before. To be looking at his face rather than his back, to witness the joy and excitement and enthusiasm in his facial expressions and body language was an absolute delight!

And wait until you see what he's bringing to Youngstown this Saturday night! Fleischer the conductor will present Fleischer the composer in a unique concert/show.

Here's a video interview about the performance.

Maestro Fleischer is obviously attuned to what every orchestra governing board and management team is talking about today: The orchestra audience is aging. We must program differently to bring in younger audiences or we will cease to exist.

It's a simple but very challenging concept. The under-40s are accustomed to multitasking, to watching videos, to light and sound and action all at once. They're used to tweeting their every move and thought to all their friends. They're used to instantaneity! They're loathe to just sit and listen to some guys and gals in formal dress sitting and sawing or beating.

Orchestras are having to learn how to use social media and how to think ahead—think forward. When Wolf Trap stages summer operas, they now tweet the plot as it happens so the audience can know what's going. Cleveland Orchestra now offers Friday night concerts that start earlier, exclude the intermission, and close with cocktails, jazz, and dancing.

We must innovate!

And innovate is what Randall Craig Fleischer is doing with Echoes. If you miss this concert, you will miss seeing the future.

Buy tickets here.

(And, no, I am not affiliated with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. I just know a good thing when I see it!)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What Are You Reading?

I just finished "Eat, Pray, Love" after avoiding it ever since it slammed into the American consciousness. As I've mentioned before, I tend to avoid books and movies that are phenoms. But I like to read the book on which a movie is based before I see that movie. I've been thinking I want to see Julia Roberts in "Eat, Pray, Love", so picked up a copy of the book and then, lacking time to sit and read, got the Audible.com version. And now I'm not sure I want to see the movie!

One thing I especially like about reading is forming my own mental images of people, places and things. Do I want to know what Hollywood thinks Felipe looks like? (I haven't even looked to see who the actor is who plays this important role.)

I enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's writing and want to look into more of her work. There were passages I absolutely loved and wanted to include in this post. However, when you're "reading" an audio book, it's very hard—while driving—to pick up the iPod, open the player, note what track it's on and how many minutes into the track it is. I just may have to listen to it again while sewing or knitting so I can stop and copy down the portions I want to share.

Gilbert's experiences and thought/growth processes made me ponder my own life and where I could have done things differently. But, then, I do that on my own anyway. I'm kinda introspective/obsessive that way. (Do you think I have Obsessive Introspective Disorder?)

I've delayed long enough now that it's out on video. Maybe I'll rent it, invite my Knitting Buddy Melinda to bring her latest project, and we can knit and watch it together, sans popcorn. Then I can see if Hollywood's version of Felipe is as delicious as he is in my mind.

And what are you reading?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

What Defines Your Life?

Listening to conversation between Rosie O'Donnell and Molly Shannon on XMRadio today. Each of these women lost her mother at an early age—Molly at 4 and Rosie at 10. Rosie said her friends have said to her that it is the defining incident in her life. No matter what success she achieves, no matter how happy her life is, she still and always comes back to "My mother died when I was 10. I lost my mother. I was a motherless child."

My life experiences stretch far and wide. Marriages, jobs, talent. Experiences.

But the central theme, in my mind, is Adoption. It seems every thought goes back to being adopted, to being abandoned and—in my mind—tentatively retrieved. Every word is weighed to ensure it will not cause someone to abandon me again. It's a sickness.

I will say that having a wonderful man in my life—a man who loves me and cares tenderly for me through any apparent craziness—is the best medicine for my adoption sickness. With each day that passes in this affirming relationship, I feel more settled and less abandoned.

Maybe definitions can change.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Pleases Your Eyes?

This is my library, at the back of the first floor. It's what I see each time I walk up the stairs to the bedrooms or family room. It pleases me.

Every time I glance over into that room on the way up the stairs, I smile. My mind pauses from whatever race it's on and says, with awe and wonder, "This is my house!"

I often contemplate the elements of that room—in what way are those components coming together to please me so much?

I think the first element is color. Much as I almost always wear black so I can adorn it with some spectacular piece of jewelry or shibori'd jacket or hand-knitted scarf, this room with its ivory couch and loveseat and the mahogany leather bench are a canvas.

Wanna see the original couch and loveseat? This is one of the pieces I refer to as "legacy to the house". It remained after the previous owner's departure. See the cat-scratching on the front? It was a M*E*S*S! I took them over to Mark Shaw Upholstery in Girard. Mark did a fabulous job of reupholstering these pieces, and I absolutely love them!







So the ivory upholstery and the ivory rug from the mountain cottage and the leather bench form the cake, which is then iced with two mixed media pieces by Tucson artist Carol Thayer. Tossed over the back of the sofa is a throw I knit from a rayon/cotton tape yarn. This yarn started out to be a vest for me, but quickly let me know it would rather be a throw. And isn't it gorgeous in this environment?




This is a room for Sunday mornings with a cup of tea and the New York Times crosswords. This is a room for a glass of wine and tealights in those lovely glass holders. This is a room just right for pondering life.

I love this room!


So think about your environment. What pleases you? What do you love to stop and look at? What brings you joy each time you think about it?



(As long as we're walking backwards through the cobwebs of our minds, here are the two Carol Thaler pieces in their original home in Tucson. Isn't that a lovely room?!)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coming Up for Air

I'll bet you've been wondering where I've been (she mused, narcissistically).

This is what choristers refer to as "Hell Week". Tonight and Saturday night the CleveOrch Chorus will be performing Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Five Mystical Songs" and "Toward the Unknown Region". My week has been insane balancing work and singing, with nightly drives to Severance Hall. But I love every minute of it.

Along with working, driving and singing, yesterday and today I've been watching the installation of new windows in my kitchen and office. Yippee! Already I can hear the difference in the ambient noise, and feel the difference in the lack of drafts around the windows.

I chose Valley Energy Solutions, owned by Dan Quinlan, to provide and install the windows. The thing about having Dan do the job: energy efficiency is his thing. I knew he would do the absolute best job of insulating around the new windows—far better than Window World or the Pella or Andersen people. And the windows arrived at about three weeks before the projected delivery date. It's cold today, and I can live with it! I'll be very excited to see my fuel bills stabilize (rather than skyrocketing) as the temperatures drop.

I'll be back to the blog after the concerts are concluded. And we need to talk about "Eat, Pray, Love", which I've been "reading" as I drive back and forth to University Circle.

Eat. Love. Pray if you feel like it. I'll be back.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Debutante

Two posts today; none tomorrow.

The Jazzman and I are hosting our first-together dinner party tomorrow night. There will be ten around my heirloom table (heirloom: it came with the house). We were doing some preliminary planning last night and realized we needed to position the table cattywampus in the dining room to make everyone comfortable. (Did you know "cattywampus" is actually in the dictionary? It's an outgrowth of cater-cornered, but you knew that. You just didn't know the English language had deteriorated enough for "cattywampus" to make it into print!)

Now everyone knows I don't cook anymore, but I can make a mean lasagna when called upon to do so. It's easy, can be prepared ahead, and most everyone likes it. I rely upon Giada De Laurentiis's lasagna recipes, and make a pan of vegetarian lasagna and one of meat lasagna. We were thrilled last night to find Mt. Carmel Marinara Sauce in Giant Eagle. I'll be saving time and buying local!

Guests are bringing salad, appetizers, and desserts. The handyman/carpenter who brought my new office to fruition will be at the table and will, I'm sure, receive much praise. Jazz spent a couple of hours last evening polish beautiful antiques that have been ignored for far too long.

One of the guests forwarded the picture above to spur me on. The Jazzman commented last night that all the guests are cat people. At least we don't have to worry about having enough Benadryl on hand!

We're excited. (Well, that's easy for the woman to say. But once I sent out the e-mailed invitation and starting receiving responses, Jazzman actually said, "I'm excited!" Imagine that! A man eager to host a party!)

Today I'm working and cooking, with Hallowe'en costume alterations set for tonight. Tomorrow I'm cleaning and cooking—and ignoring the computer.

<My-Granddaughter-Is-Amazing Story On>
Last night my phone rang with Tyler's "Brenda and Eddie" ringtone. I answered with "Hey." There was a pause, then Miss Ridley's sweet voice came on the line. "Grandma," she started, "Next week for ballet class we can wear our Hallowe'en costumes. Would it be convenient for you to finish my costume before next Thursday?"

Convenient? What seven-year-old talks like that?!

<My-Granddaughter-Is-Amazing Story Off>

So while I'm preparing for the first dinner party in my almost-two-year-old home with my almost-roommate, how about sharing your favorite dish to prepare for guests?

Do You Care?

This morning, killing a few minutes while I work up my nerve to exit my warm bed, I was reading an old Carolyn Hax column in the WaPo. A reader had written to her about an inappropriate Christmas gift from a thoughtless spouse. Hax then posed the question? "What's the worst gift you ever received?"

One respondent talked about a husband's poor choice of actions surrounding a life-or-death situation. Having had so many husbands, this one started my mind wandering.

A thousand years ago, nine months into marriage number three, I spent four days in Columbia Hospital for Women in downtown Washington following a full hysterectomy. My husband and I lived in his home sixty miles west of the city. He took me to the hospital for the procedure and—I assume—stayed until I was out of recovery and back in my room. (On second thought, maybe he dropped and ran. When I picture sitting in the pre-op room, he's not in the picture. Hmmm.) He came back to visit a couple of days later, and then returned on the fourth day to take me home.

We had been married nine months, I was 43 years old, and I had just given up/lost/forfeited all my female innards (a big deal to any woman). And he could only come to the hospital once in four days to spend time with me. Hmmm.

I excused it away, saying it was too much driving for him. But, in reality, this was a man who had commuted 55 miles each way every weekday for over 15 years from his Virginia home to his Maryland office. There was no such thing as too much driving for him! (And yes, Longtime Readers, this is the man who said I was overreacting and refused to lock up the guns when his son threatened to shoot me. I repeat: Hmmm.)

All poorly-chosen gifts from loved ones pale in comparison to this egregious example of poorly-chosen actions. (Another husband's boxful of polyester clothing from K-Mart screeches to a halt in my memory.)

So, yes, your gift to your loved one says something about how much you care, but your treatment of him or her in times of need says far more.

Did I tell you the one about how I was lying on the floor with my feet on the chair, at doctor's orders, and he stepped over me to go to the refrigerator for a Coke? And couldn't be bothered to ask me if I wanted anything?

I guess I should be grateful he didn't insist I get up and go get him the Coke!

(And no, he didn't send flowers to my hospital room.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mutual Interests

The babes and I had the loveliest dinner last night with my friend Ypsi and her family. She is the first person I met all by myself when I moved to Youngstown. It was brrrr-winter in Northeast Ohio, and I had taken the kids to the mall to get rid of excess energy. Boston and Ridley found a kindred spirit in Ypsi's daughter, as I did with the mom.

She has been so kind and generous of spirit with me since the day we met. She invited me into her world—her book group, her knitting circle. I started knitting again, after 25 years, spurred on by watching her placidly knit socks during book discussions. I'm not up to socks yet, but her inspiration has given me a lot of joy with yarn and needles.

The picture above is my latest completed project—a twisted spiral scarf from the book One-Skein Wonders. It goes in the mail today to PianoLady.

Aren't friends with whom you share commonalities just the best? Last weekend PianoLady and I shared stories old and new. Last night Ypsi and I discussed our love of books and yarn and our families, along with some commonalities over enormous sorrows we've experienced.

Our meal at her home was not a fine-wine-and-damask meal. It was a Real Meal—real people, real food, real clutter. A real family living a life, getting through each day as it comes, and loving each other immensely.

I'll take real over fine-wine-and-damask any day!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Renovation Continues

Yesterday I relocated my wall of travel pictures from the downstairs hallway to the wall in my office. I love pausing to look at these photos and remembering where they were taken and what I was doing then.

In a perfect world, they'd all be in black frames, but they're not and that's the way it's gonna be.

Let's start at the bottom left and continue clockwise; here's a mini-travelogue.
  1. The Washington Chorus in St Louis en l'Ile Church (built in 1622) in Paris; June 2004

  2. A postcard I picked up in Rome of a small brown tabby cat sitting on the toe of a very large statue

  3. The 25th anniversary of Florida Epsilon chapter of Pi Beta Phi. The women pictured were all members of the local sorority, Tyes, founded in 1969 at what was then Florida Technological University. The three women on the right were charter members; I was a charter pledge. We stayed local for twelve years until just the right national fraternity came along.

  4. A watercolor of Market Square in Cirencester, England. The drawing prominently features "The Cathedral of the Cotswolds", St. John the Baptist Church, where The Washington Chorus sang the Vivaldi Gloria and the Fauré Requiem in 1996. I dearly loved the Cotswolds and hope to revisit someday.

  5. A photograph of umbrellas at a sidewalk café taken by fellow Washington Chorus singer, Wayne Guenther, in London on our Paris/England tour in 1996.

  6. In 1997, the family gathered in Las Vegas for T.J.'s wedding. Jaci, Greg, Tyler and I took a flightseeing tour over the Grand Canyon. One word: Wow!

  7. The newest photo: Cleveland Orchestra Chorus 2009-2010. Singing with this chorus is one of the greatest joys of my entire life.

  8. Venice, 2002. A watercolor of one of the canals in Venice. This was a concert tour for The Washington Chorus. My friend, Walu, and I went along just to enjoy the music and spend time with old friends.


The other grouping that is dear to my heart sits on the file cabinet. All these pictures were taken without my knowledge.

In the black frame is a photo of me with T.J. and Tyler, hiking a trail along Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I think the boys were about 9 and 11.

In the small gold frame is a photo from my law school graduation in May of 1990. Tyler was 15; T.J. was almost 17. Walu flew up from Texas for this memorable ceremony and walks alongside us. She had known the boys for ten years at that time.

The photo in the silver frame was snapped by the brilliant Pittsburgh photographer, Kim Reed, last year when she did a photo shoot of Tyler and Jaci and the kids. I'm walking hand-in-hand with my darling grandchildren, just as I did with their father and uncle many years earlier.

I hope you enjoyed this walk through my history as much as I enjoyed recounting the events.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Fun Continues

Installation #2 of the 2010 Broadway Travelogue

On Saturday, PianoLady and I decided to begin our day with the same restaurant where we had enjoyed dinner on Friday evening, Saju Bistro on 44th, across from the better-known Cafe Un Deux Trois. The breakfast was delightful. We both love all-things-French, so this was a great way to begin our full day together. We both ordered the Omelet Bistro, filled with ham and cheese, and accompanied by a wedge of hash brown potatoes and a small salad.

After breakfast, we walked around the corner onto Broadway to Sephora, where I picked up some Clinique cosmetics, and then to Quiksilver, where PL selected a couple of shirts for her twin sons. We walked back to the hotel for a few minutes before heading to the theatre.

"Promises, Promises" was first produced on Broadway from 1968 through 1972, back when PL and I were majoring in piano and starting our married lives. In other words, a thousand years ago. Based on the movie, "The Apartment", the book is by Neil Simon, and the score is by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. I have long been a Dionne Warwick fan, and was very familiar with her covers of the Bacharach/David tunes.

Reading our program books, we were sad to learn we wouldn't get to see Kristen Chenoweth, but her understudy, Sarah Jane Everman, did a great job in the role. Sean Hayes also did a wonderful job as Chuck Baxter, and I loved his repartee with the audience when he heard Fran Kubelik saying what he wanted to hear rather than what she really said. Hayes's body languages and, especially, use of his eyes to make a point were terrific.

As with the previous night's performance of "West Side Story", the choreography and dancing were exquisite. The opening number with office chairs and rolling coat racks was simply fabulous.

PianoLady and I were seated on the second row, and when I leaned forward, I had a great view of the face of the music director, Phil Reno. I don't believe I have ever seen a director appear to enjoy every note of a play as much as Reno did. He was a joy to observe, as well as a very musical conductor.

As we were leaving the theatre, PL and I felt we had chosen our entertainment very wisely for this trip.

(I almost forgot to mention Molly Shannon, as Marge MacDougall, who was out-of-this-world funny—as she always is! What a treat to see her up close and personal.)

After the show, we wandered a little, going into Colony Music for a few purchases, An American Craftsman for a few oohs and ahhs, and Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe to rest our feet while enjoying a glass of wine. Then PL went into the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store and I stuck my nose in the Lego store to marvel at all the colors and sizes. A quick trip into Anthropologie preceded our walk down to our traditional Saturday dinner place, Cafe Un Deux Trois.

We enjoyed crepes and creme brulee and a long leisurely dinner where we retold stories of old that each of us had forgotten about the other. Too soon we were finished, tired, and ready to retire after a long busy day.

Sunday dawned early, as PL had to get back to Westchester County to her church job. In past years, she's been able to take this Sunday off so we could wander the City until early afternoon. A special event at the church required her performance, so she headed for Grand Central, and I snuggled back into bed to watch a movie on pay-per-view.

A little googling let me know there was a 5th floor yarn shop near Grand Central Station. After packing up my belongings, I grabbed a cab and bought myself a couple of treats. Then I headed for LaGuardia and my flight home.

Where previous years' trips have been packed with activity and energy from moment one through moment n, this trip was much lower-key. Actually, I think it was just what we both needed. We've been friends for 41 years, both turned 60 this summer, and this trip perfectly suited two ladies who are attempting to age gracefully!





Key to photos:
1. The Broadway Theatre, where we enjoyed "Promises, Promises"
2. Colony Music, where we go each year to buy music that's almost impossible to find elsewhere.
3. The Zamboni, preparing the ice at Rockefeller Center for the waiting skaters.
4. The Lego store across from the skating rink, with bins of Legos in every imaginable color and size.
5. Cafe Un Deux Trois, 123 44th St.
6. Gotta Knit!, 14 E. 34th, 5th floor

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Auspicious Beginnings

Installation #1 of the 2010 Broadway Travelogue

Left home in Youngstown a few minutes after 7:00 a.m., headed for Cleveland Hopkins. Stopped for gas and the Chase drive-through to deposit a check for work. Then hopped on westbound I-80 and started the 75-mile drive to CLE. Ran into S'bux for mocha and pumpkin bread, and then turned on the audio book of "Eat, Pray, Love".

Why CLE? Why not PIT? I like flying out of either PIT or CAK, as they're easy to get to. At CAK, I don't feel I have to stick to the two-hour window, as parking and security are always easy to navigate. But when I made these reservations, I knew I had a Sunday night rehearsal with CleveOrchChorus in Beachwood, so I scheduled the flight with just enough time to get to the Fairmount Temple after arrival. Earlier this week our Sunday rehearsal was cancelled, so now I had a Cleveland flight for no reason. Oh well. At least I'll get home at 5:00 or so, instead of 11:15!

I had not planned to schlep my laptop along, but a last-minute client request came in on Thursday afternoon, so I had lots of pictures to post and pages to update on a retail Web site. As I approached security, I carefully removed my laptop and phone and placed them in the gray bin. Proud of being so thorough, I walked through the scanner and waited for my bag. Oops. The screener lady pulled my bag off the belt and asked, "Did you forget your liquids?" Yep, I forgot my liquids.

Wanting to travel light and not check a bag, I had very carefully consolidated everything to one bag. All my carefully-packed weekend-on-Broadway clothes, my boots carefully tucked into flannel bags, my jewelry stashed in a mesh pocket. Yep, all pulled out and placed on the counter. Crap!

Liquids removed, bag scanned again, the TSA agent asked if I'd like to repack it myself. "Yes!!!!!" And as she walked away, she said, "Next time, if you'll remove your liquids, it will go through." Well, just talk to me like I'm an imbecile!

I made my way to the gate, found an electric outlet, and sat down to get as much work done as I could in the hour I had to wait, but the wireless signal was not strong at all (or too many people were killing time on Facebook!) so I only got about three pages updated in that hour.

The gate agent called the flight, I stowed everything, and took my little single window seat on the Embraer RJ135. I pulled out my knitting and tucked my bag under the seat. The door closed, we pushed back, prepared to taxi, and then the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said LaGuardia had put a hold on us because of 50 mph wind gusts over NYC. Finish the row; stuff knitting back in bag; pull laptop out; turn on tethering on iPhone; try to get more work done for 45 minutes. But my electronics were not cooperating. I could not get tethering to work, but could get the weakest of signals from the terminal. I updated one page in 45 minutes.

LaGuardia finally cleared us. Shove laptop back in bag; pull out knitting again. Lovely flight while finishing a scarf for PianoLady and listening to several chapters of "Eat, Pray, Love". As we approached Manhattan, we had to circle as all flights, landing and taking off, were using the same runway. We flew up the East River, up the coast of Connecticut almost to New Haven, then circled and flew over the mansions of the north shore of Long Island before approaching LGA and landing. Wow! I love flying and looking down at the world, and this was a real treat!

Next comes the perfunctory stuff: stand in line for a cab, ride into the city, update Facebook, check into the hotel.

PianoLady and I always stay at the Marriott Marquis. I use my points, and the desk staff always make over my Silver Elite status when I arrive. For the past four or five years, they've given me a corner or next-to-corner room overlooking Times Square. Each year I'm a couple floors higher than the previous year.

As I handed the young man my ID and credit card and he pulled up my record, there was a distinct lack of making-over-me. He asked, "Would you like to upgrade your room to a minisuite? There's a king bed and a pull-out sofa and it's only $50 per night extra." "No, thank you," I politely answered. I'm a heterosexual woman traveling with my heterosexual woman friend, and neither of us wants to sleep on the couch or share the king bed. I didn't say all that, but I sure thought it! Well, then, he continued, would I like to upgrade to a full suite. I replied, "You always give me a corner room, so I don't want to upgrade." "The corner rooms are all sold out," he responded. Yeah, right. My instinct says Marriott is just trying to increase their profit.

I declined all upgrades, got my room key, and headed up to the 41st floor, where I found my room to be in the center of the building, looking out on the office building next door. Bummed, pissed, and generally demoralized, I dropped my stuff and headed downstairs to find something to eat.

I was determined not to let this disappointment ruin my weekend, but also quickly realized this would probably be the last year PianoLady and I would stay at the Marriott Marquis.

Back in the room after a cup of split pea soup and a half an egg salad sandwich, I worked on the client Web site while waiting for PianoLady. When she arrived, having already heard by phone of my disappointment, she looked out the window and said, "But we can see the river." Ah, yes, there is brightness to this room. We can see the Hudson River. I'll shut up about my disappointment.

I worked until the last possible moment, called my boss to give him the status update, changed my clothes, and we set out for dinner. PL's neighbor works in the city and we always have Friday evening dinner with her. She had chosen Saju Bistro, across the street from Cafe Un Deux Trois, for our dinner location. We had a wonderful dinner, flirting with wait staff and Maitre d' in three languages. (I had warm goat cheese tarts and tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella. Yum. We shared profiteroles and lemon tart with passion fruit sorbet for dessert. Double Yum.)

Saying good-bye to PL's neighbor, we set out for the Palace Theatre, where we had tickets to see "West Side Story."

Let me reiterate that PL and I are both musicians, and we love our Broadway musicals. Love, love, love! And this production of "West Side Story" did not disappoint!

From the orchestra's opening note to the final applause for the orchestra at the very end, the show was a complete and absolute thrill. Our seats? Second row. I could watch the facial expressions of the conductor. I could see the spit from Tony's mouth as he sang. The dancing was impeccable. IMPECCABLE! The singing was fabulous - not a "pitchy" moment. The electricity between Tony and Maria was palpable. The set and lighting were brilliant! For the rumble scene under the bridge, when the chain link fence came down to separate the stage from the audience, and the bridge set slid into place, you would swear you were under a bridge. It was absolutely inspired!

As each song began, a thrill welled up within me. As hard as I'm trying, I'm at a loss for words to tell you how wonderful this production was. I kept thinking maybe we should go stand in the ticket lottery line on Saturday morning to try to get $25 tickets for the Saturday night performance to see it again.

The dance scenes were so well-choreographed and well-executed, I could have had sixteen eyes in my head and all the synapses to process all the signals, and still not have been able to catch everything that was happening on stage.

It. Was. Fabulous!

<Pause to breathe>

All too soon the curtain came down. PL bought her requisite magnet at the gift counter, and we headed back to the hotel. We kept regaling each other with our impressions of the show until I just had to turn over and close my eyes.

Day one of the 2010 Girls' Broadway Weekend: A complete success.

Saturday: Wandering through shops, "Promises, Promises", and Cafe Un Deux Trois.