Friday, April 30, 2010

A Man of My Own

For two years and almost two months, I've been stopping at the Akron-Medina Road Panera Bread almost every Friday morning for a pastry that involved chocolate. I just seem to need chocolate on Fridays. And each time I walked in, I would quickly scan the diners for handsome, age-appropriate men. If I saw one, and he was noticing me, I'd maneuver myself past his table to check for the presence or absence of a wedding band.

This weekly activity led to nothing, obviously. But it was something I felt, in my loneliness, the need to do. It's like the lottery—if you don't play, you can't win. If I wasn't constantly on the lookout for a man, I'd never find one.

This morning I went into Panera again, maybe for my final time. (Technically my last day of work is next Friday, but one never knows with this company ….) After getting my chocolate pastry and my napkin, I pushed open the exit door and realized I hadn't looked around once. The restaurant could have been completely filled with women—or men—and I wouldn't even have noticed.

I have my own man now. And he's a Really Good Man. He makes me feel loved and cherished and secure.

My days of relentlessly looking are over. Yippee!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I see; You see

If you were to walk into my bedroom, the first thing you would see is my bedside table. The Jazzman looks at it and sees clutter. I look at it and see items: this and that.

It doesn't get this way overnight. Every couple of months I remove everything, dust, and start restacking. I take off a few items, throw some things away, find other resting places for some items. And end up with an accumulation that looks too much like what I started with.

When I look at the table, I see:
  1. about eight books I intend to read;

  2. my journal that I like to write in each night but only get to once a month;

  3. catalogs that I want to flip through before I toss them out;

  4. my clock-radio (balanced on three more books I intend to read) so it's high enough to be seen across the bed in the middle of the night;

  5. hand lotion and massage oil;

  6. my watch, gold bracelet, tennis bracelet, everyday gold hoop earrings, my daddy's watch from about 1980, and whatever pair of earrings I wore [today] and haven't put away yet;

  7. a raku bowl I made in a pottery class eight years ago and use as a catch-all for whatever little items I need to put someplace and don't know what to do with—buttons that have fallen off pants, a few paper clips, a tube of lip balm;

  8. a stack of CDs to play on the clock-radio as I'm falling asleep;

  9. a bunch of other stuff; and

  10. a Beanie Baby snake that Boston wants me to reproduce, but a little bigger so it can pretend to eat a small stuffed mouse that he also wants me to make.

Oh, I didn't detail the lower shelf, which holds a couple more books, a book of Washington Post crossword puzzles, two Sudoku books, and about a pound of dust.

Confronted with this mess accumulation, what would you see? And given a similar situation in your own bedroom, how would you handle it?

My solution? The books will go on a bookshelf; the puzzles will find another shelf; the bowl will find another shelf, probably in the sewing room. The table will be cleared off, the dust eradicated, and my nightstand will stop looking like my life is out of control.

Or maybe I'll just find a box, throw it all in, shove it in a closet, and start over again.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Choosing Good Gifts

I love getting gifts. I wrote recently about the art of choosing gifts. But I am troubled by a commercial that is being aired again this year on channels I listen to on XMRadio.

The commercial tells listeners that bigger is better. (Okay, well, I endorse that theory, but not regarding stuffed animals.) The company is, and their motto is "The Biggest Stuffed Toys in the World."

The troubling part, for me, is that this is being aired with a focus on Mother's Day. The commercials instruct listeners that their mothers and wives and other assorted Loved Ones would love a 4-foot or 5-foot or 6-foot-tall stuffed animal. They stock 600 different stuffed animals two to eighteen feet tall!!!!!

Listen, Guys, it's a marketing ploy. We do not want a 4-foot bear wearing a T-shirt. We do not want a 40-inch tall Big Bad Lover Boy Monkey. We do not want a 4-foot kangaroo with baby in pouch.

You—as the male gift-giver for a woman who cooks your meals or washes your smelly socks or tends your children or works at a tough job all day to help support your lifestyle; who tells you in words and actions that she loves you—need to have more confidence in your gift-giving instincts. Do not fall for this marketing crap!

What could you do to gain some Good Husband or Good Son points? If you share a household with said lady, how about pulling up the sheets on your side of the bed or taking your dishes to the kitchen after a meal or washing the dishes or putting away the dry dishes. How about taking out the garbage without being asked or remembering it's recycling night. (My brilliant son has put recycling night on his Google calendar so he'll never forget.) How about noticing when she spent a little extra time on her hair or makeup. How about just noticing? If you don't share a household, a heartfelt note telling her how much you appreciate all she's done for you is powerful!

You'll get a lot more points in your Good Guy bank for any of those activities than you will for a ridiculous 8-foot tall pink panda!

You wanna know how lucky I am? I have a guy who does all of those things. He checks my car's oil and water before I leave on a trip. He makes sure I have extra windshield washer fluid in the trunk. He washes dishes and changes light bulbs and makes the bed and puts a safer electrical outlet in the bathroom. He listens when I am troubled. He notices and comments when I look especially nice. He's there, physically and emotionally. His Good Guy bank has such a large balance it's going to have to be moved off-shore.

By my definition, he takes care of me. And you know what? I'd much rather be taken care of than receive a tacky stuffed animal that I've got to move and dust and eventually give to Goodwill.

No matter the size!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Great Mysteries of Life

I have a cat. His name is Rudi. He's fat.

"Hi, my name is Rudi and I'm a catfoodaholic."

My Darling Daughter-in-Law calls him RudiFatTudi.

As you can tell from the picture of this beautiful boy, he's got fairly long hair. I couldn't get him to show you his tail when I pulled my camera out this morning, but it's long and gorgeous and very fluffy. (I could have named him Fluffy, but there's no opera character I know of named Flufolfo.) When I got him from the Humane Society in Tucson, his tail was bigger than his body (and remained so until his addiction surfaced).

Rudi is an excellent groomer. He spends long hours making sure his coat and, especially, his tail are in pristine condition. But you know what that means. He ingests a lot of hair. A lot! I feed him food that helps his digestive system and food that encourages the hairballs to slip right through. I give him that liver-flavored glop to lubricate his insides. My effort is all to no avail. The boy gets hairballs and, at the most inopportune times, hacks them out and deposits them at some central location.

So here's the mystery. It doesn't matter where in the house he deposits his hairballs. I will find some reason to walk to that area of the house and step squarely on the hairball with my bare feet.

This morning I walked to the other side of the bed to pull the sheet up and suddenly felt wet, squishy yuck under my foot. Yuck. Major Yuck! I didn't even hear him hack it up, but it had to have been recent, as it was still dripping with his digestive juices. (Wait—you're not eating while you're reading this, are you?!)

Can you please explain to me the mystery of why his hairballs act as magnets for my feet? If we can solve this mystery, we might also be able to find a cure for cancer and become fabulously wealthy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hell Week Times Two

Don't expect great things from this space for the next two weeks, but do—please—check back or add me to your blog reader.

The Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus is performing the Boito Prelude to Mefistofele and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana on May 6, 7 and 8 in Severance Hall.

Akron Symphony Orchestra and Chorus is performing Carmina Burana on May 1st. Our family's dear friend, Hugh Ferguson Floyd, directs the ASOC and has invited COC members to perform the work with them, as we will already be prepared for our performance. Hugh is the director of choral activities at Oberlin College, and is leaving soon to move to a new position in South Carolina. This will be my last opportunity to sing under Hugh's baton, and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

But that means two solid weeks of rehearsals and performances. Two back-to-back Hell Weeks. I have Wednesday night off this week, when I'll be getting a much-needed massage. And I have Sunday night, May 2nd off. I will even be in performance in Cleveland when my baby boy turns 35 on the 6th.

But I do get a big kick out of singing this work, and out of singing the choral repertoire in general.

If you have an opportunity, come to Severance Hall on the 6th, 7th, or 8th. The Boito isn't performed that often, and it's gorgeous. And the Carmina Burana is always a crowd pleaser.

I'll be there, balancing fatigue and joy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Questions to Determine Compatibility

QuestionsI wrote earlier about the questions one must ask when deciding to form a relationship at a later stage in life. It's hard to know what to ask and even harder to know what the acceptable answers are. Up with what will you put?

The other night I realized there was a question I hadn't asked, and the fervency of the answer—at least the implicit answer demonstrated by body language—was somewhere between shocking and laughable.

Here's the question: Are you competitive?

Tyler introduced me to the "Words With Friends" iPhone app, which is a pseudo-Scrabble game, as similar as it can be to Scrabble without violating intellectual property laws. I sent the Jazzman an invitation and, by jove, he signed up. He has moments throughout his workday when he can relax, and it's been fun for me to have this ongoing game with him.

But the other night we came close to our first fight. I had about three letters left, all vowels, and I wasn't quitting until I had played every letter I could play. Resign? No way, José. We were actually sitting next to each other, playing back and forth. "Just resign," he said. "Unh uh," I countered.
"We're not done." The banter continued back and forth until I finally bribed him. "I can only resign when it's my turn. You play one more word and when it comes back to me I'll resign."

Of course, he won. Of course, as soon as that game was over, we started another game. How fun to be with someone who will play real games with me, not mind games.

<Aside On>
I have two other regular WWF partners, Tyler and my friend, Tani. I lost to Tyler last night by only four points, the closest we've ever been in a Scrabble game. He's relentless as a gamer. Tani and I play much more slowly—about a word every two days. She's chasing a toddler and can only play when he goes down for his nap!

Wanna play with me? Download the app and add me—I'm jaycie622.
<Aside Off>

You're probably wondering if I'm competitive. Somewhat, but I do keep telling myself it's only a game. I'm the kind of grandma who always lets the grandkids win. I like to win, but in Scrabble I'd rather have an elegant word than a high score. Kinda boring, I know.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Extreme Courage / Abject Terror

TerrorThroughout my adult life, beginning with my first divorce, friends and colleagues have commented on how courageous I was. I have routinely disputed these statements. I never felt courageous. I think I felt it was a survival instinct. The harder action in the marriage, I thought at the time, would have been to stay in the marriage and make it work. But it takes two to make a marriage work, and maybe—in the long run—that would have been impossible.

Looking back at my work history, the best jobs usually come to me serendipitously. No courage involved; just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I got my first IBM job as a secretary with a temp agency. IBM liked me, hired me, and then recognized my abilities and promoted me into a programming career path. My first contract position with CTG came because an IBM manager wanted me to come write marketing materials for him and he got me the only way he could. The most amazing serendipity occurred on the day of John's death: I received a phone call completely out of the blue from a man I had taken a Lotus Notes class from two years before. I had never applied for a job with this company, had never spoken with this man after the class. He called to ask if I'd come work for them. That's astonishing to me!

Sometimes my leaving a current position to go to something that looked a little more promising took an enormous leap of faith. Sometimes it was just following my gut. Today I took an action that was a combination of leaping and following my gut: I quit my job to become a freelance something-or-other—writer, editor, web editor, executive assistant, …. I have only one contract lined up: performing all those tasks for my son. I think I performed a courageous act.

When I handed in my resignation this morning, I was immediately washed with a feeling of relief. As the day wears on, I'm swimming in terror.

The rightness of what I've done is pooling around at the base of my gut. I know that my leap of faith will pay off. I've been dreaming of it long enough that I know it's right. But right now I feel like my head is about to explode from the fear.

What's the worst that could happen? I guess it's that I would declare bankruptcy. But I know within myself I couldn't do that. Twenty years ago, when I got custody of my son, I worked a full-time and two part-time jobs while in law school to provide for us and to pay his boarding school tuition. It was the right thing to do. Tired? Damned right. I was tired constantly, but I knew I was doing the right thing. And it paid off—I credit much of who he is today to the education he received at Interlochen Arts Academy. If I need to do that again—to work multiple jobs—to pay my bills, at age almost-60, can I keep up that pace? I don't know. What I do know is that I instinctively, religiously, try to do the right thing.

So here we go. The known is behind me, or will be in two weeks. That includes a grueling commute that costs me a minimum of two hours a day and thousands of dollars a year, and a workday spent in a job where I don't feel appreciated or respected. The unknown is ahead, but aspects of this unknown can be seen. What I can see is that I'll be working for a bright and mature young man who knows the quality of my work and respects me. I will commute from my bedroom to my home office. I'll have blessed time to walk around the block or spend a normal-commute-time hour in my sewing room. And I'll make a difference to my employer.

I can't even imagine the fear and panic that must have swirled around my son when he took his leap of faith almost two years ago to become an entrepreneur. He was a father with a wife who was just beginning her own entrepreneurship and two young children. All I am is a grandmother with a lot of bills.

Good God—if he can do it (and become so successful), surely I can follow in his footsteps.

Here's hoping.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Regional Idiosyncracies

I have been struck by many language idiosyncrasies since moving to Ohio. Things like "pop" were not new to me, as I've had an Ohio-born daughter-in-law for twelve years, and she regularly uses that word instead of my "soda." However, living here brings to ear many more phrases that are totally foreign to me.

One I noticed in the workplace very early on after moving here was the eliding of "to be". "That text needs proofed." "That car needs washed." "That bill needs passed." It would drive me crazy. Now that my grandson is in third grade, I hear him making this mistake. And I correct him. If he says, "My fingernails need cut", I gently repeat "My fingernails need cutting," or "My fingernails need to be cut."

Alas, two nights ago, suffering from a day-long headache, I turned to the Jazzman, directing him to the knot on the left side of my neck, and said, "My neck needs rubbed." Argh! How did this happen? Someone who pays loads of attention to her speaking and writing mannerisms has begun, after a two-year residence, to speak like an Ohioan.

A more obscure term came to my ears and eyes twice within a 24-hour period over the weekend. On Friday, my colleague posted on Facebook that he had installed a "man door." Huh? Who knew doors had genders? Then on Saturday afternoon, the Jazzman asked me who had installed the light over my man door. Really?! There are a lot of places you could go with the phrase, "my man door!"

Okay, so if you're reading from afar and wondering what on earth a "man door" is, think about your garage. You have a door that cars drive through, and a door that people walk through. The door that people walk through is a "man door." (I'm reminded of old-time IBM, when an employee ID number was called a "man number".) In our more politically-correct day and age, it probably should be a people door. Some call it a utility door. But to Loren and the Jazzman (and, evidently, many other Ohioans), it's a "man door."

Now here's your test for the day: What's a "devil strip?" That's another regional speech idiosyncrasy that I never heard before moving here. I've got two of them that need lots of attention. So what are they? (Here's the answer.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Interests versus Passions

PassionLast night the CleveOrch Chorus was honored to sit in on a master class with Raymond Aceto.

From the COC Facebook page:

Ohio born bass, Raymond Aceto hosted a Masterclass for us last night. What a powerhouse he is! Our 5 soloists were wonderful and under his tutorage became even more so. Raymond will be performing Mefistofele in Boito's Prologue in the Heavens. May 6, 7 & 8. We can't wait to see, and hear him again.

As I sat there listening to these talented singers and observing their immediate improvement with the instructions of Mr. Aceto, several themes kept roiling through my brain.

First, I was remembering my auditions for COChorus and how overwhelmingly nervous I was. To stand in front of an audience, no matter how small, as these singers had done last night, is totally outside my ability. I was as awed by these singers' displays of courage as I was by their voices.

Next, I thought about the mere desire to participate in such an event. As much as I want to constantly improve my singing technique and become a better chorister, I wouldn't have the interest in participating in a master class. I occasionally ponder taking voice lessons [yet again], and quickly drop the idea. I've taken voice lessons a number of times, and I am completely intimidated by the process. I walk away with a feeling of incompetence, despite my vast experience and highly trained ear.

And then I thought about passion. These singers clearly have a passion for what they were doing. While I have a passion for choral singing (as evidenced by all the miles I put on my car driving to Cleveland for rehearsals and performances), I do not—absolutely do not—have such a passion for solo singing.

In fact, had I thought I could skip this master class, I probably would have done so, opting instead for a free evening with my sewing machine.

And this train of thought led me to pondering the activities I'm really passionate about. Ever since meeting the Jazzman, I have let everything get pushed to the side of the table while I spend time developing a relationship with him. Truthfully, I could be convinced to get rid of all artistic interests in favor of spending time with him. That's how good it feels to me to again—finally, at long last—be part of a loving relationship. I guess he's my Primary Passion right now.

For me, the thought of passions goes hand-in-hand with the thought of retirement. In my present situation, I cannot foresee having time to spend on the things I love to do—fiber art, practicing the piano again, reading. I long to retire, to be able to retire, so I can start over at restructuring my life. So I can sew and bead and knit; create pottery; learn to cook one or two dishes for entertaining; learn to play a passable game of golf. So I can learn an ever-increasing number of new techniques and art forms.

I ran into the nearby Sears store on my lunch hour today to look at stoves. My kitchen stove is, probably, 55-60 years old. I can't simmer anything. I can't cook rice, because the flame won't stay low enough. I can't bake because the oven temperature is erratic. I can't melt cheese on nacho chips because the broiler doesn't seem to put out enough heat. I don't need a 48" Viking. I need something functional. When the sales clerk approached me, I told her I needed a new gas stove. She said, "What's in your dreams?"

Give me a break. My dreams do not include stoves (unless it's a pottery or glass kiln). My dreams include time to myself, time not spent driving to Akron, time to follow my passions and find new passions, time to explore distant cities, time to—for the first time in many years—just do nothing.

Doing nothing? Now that I could be passionate about!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hit Me Again!

If there's one name that everyone in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley knows, it's Kelly Pavlik. He's our boy, our hero. He's achieved success in his chosen career and the locals love him.

That said, I don't understand why anyone would choose the career path he has chosen.

The Jazzman and I went to his cousin's house on Saturday night to watch the match. Pavlik was defending his World Boxing Organization and World Boxing Council middleweight champion title. The title was taken away from him at the end of the night by Sergio Martinez.

Let me restate the obvious. I don't like violence. I don't like being mean to people. I don't like movies where people get hurt. I don't like activities where people get hurt. I can't imagine hitting someone in anger or in sport.

(Yes, my parents spanked me and yes, I spanked my kids. That's how we attempted to correct perceived problems in that day and age. Is that different? Or is that not different at all?)

From the first punch that opened a gash over Pavlik's left eye, I had a hard time watching. It seemed everytime Pavlik came back to the center ring, Martinez tried to hit him hard again in the same spot. Pavlik couldn't see where to throw a punch because there was blood streaming into his eyes. I could not watch the screen. I made the time pass more quickly by watching the Twitter feed to see what people were saying about the fight. (And, yes, I am one of those people who covers her eyes at movies.)

I watch football games. Okay, I won't sit down and turn on the television to a football game, but if someone I'm with wants to watch, I'll watch. And I enjoy it. But I don't like the part where people get hurt. Hockey? Forget it. My older son loves hockey. To me, it's just an excuse to have a fight.

I don't fight. I don't even say mean things to people. So how do you explain wanting to hit people for a living?

I do feel really bad for Kelly after Saturday night's bout, and I hope his injuries heal quickly and he figures out what to do next.

But I just don't get it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Do What You Know How to Do

Last night it was my distinct pleasure to provide background piano music for a political fundraiser. The event was benefiting Bob Hagan's reelection bid to the Ohio State Legislature. Playing beautiful music is something I know how to do. I've been doing it for many, many years.

A run for elected office requires many tasks and much help. My time (thanks to distant job and long commute) is limited. Meeting new people presents a challenge for me with my desire to stay in the background. And I'm uncomfortable asking people for contributions. But what I can do is help create an elegant environment that might put donors in a more expansive frame of mind.

For ten years I played the piano at Nordstrom in the Washington, DC area. At that time in the Pentagon City store, the piano was located next to Salon Shoes. (If you're not a Nordstrom regular, "Salon Shoes" translates to top quality, expensive shoes with designer labels.) Many men through the years would come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed my music, and that they bought their wives a couple of extra pair of shoes just so the husbands could sit and listen.

If you translate that attitude from "Beautiful Music to Shop By" to "Beautiful Music to Support a Candidate By", then I think my donation of music from my brain and fingers is just as valuable as the time someone gives to sit at a phone bank or drive around town installing yard signs. The music is just what I know how to do.

A friend of mine came over to speak to me. She said, "I heard the music as I stepped off the elevator. I thought they had a sound system going. Then I saw you." She said how much she enjoyed having the live music in the room.

Another friend said, "It's the most elegant fundraiser I've been to around here."

I'm hopeful these donors and others like them will extend their thought process to something like, "If Rep. Hagan and his staff can plan an event like this, imagine how organized and powerful he will be in the legislature—with his staff's support—representing the residents of the Mahoning Valley." Maybe I'm being naïve, but maybe not.

There's always someone who can use your help if you can just find a way to tap your talents and skills.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

She's On Her Way Home!

With great joy and relief (and a bit of trepidation and wonder for what's ahead), my colleague and his wife are bringing their darling little Adie home today.

I've posted previously about her very early birth and her progress.

She was born March 3rd, which makes her six weeks old. She has done so well in making up for only spending 30 weeks in utero. May her progress continue. May she have a long and healthy life!

Welcome home, Adelaide.

Knowing What I Need

PianoLady and I talked at length on Tuesday evening, catching up on our lives and reminiscing about our piano professor who died last week. I had found another of our music theory classmates on Facebook, and we started trying to name everyone who had been in that class, thinking it was probably a pretty good exercise for our aging brains.

As we were hanging up the phone, she said, "Oh, I sent you something." I had recently blogged about my lack of organization. Then yesterday, not knowing what her gift was nor when it would arrive, I wrote another post on the same topic. Sensing a theme here, are we?

When I got home last night, PianoLady's gift was in my mailbox: an autographed copy of Linda Samuels' "The Other Side of Organized." Samuels' Web site says the book "will encourage you to get organized enough to reduce the stress of life’s details and make time to embrace your passions." Sign me up! I've got two Carmina Burana hell weeks in the near future, so this book will be the perfect time-filler while I wait for conductors and orchestras and the appropriate alto entrances.

How nice to have friends who know what you need!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Neatnik in the House

NeatnessI have posted recently about my distinct lack of the Neatness gene. But I try. I was in a friend's home recently and the sheer quantity of tchotchkes, knickknacks and gewgaws left me feeling claustrophobic! Another friend's home contained stacks of papers and magazines that screamed of fire hazard. The stacks also reminded me of a young man who rented a room from me when Scott was in his first year of college and Tyler in Germany for his exchange year. This young man subscribed to the Wall Street Journal every day. His job kept him too busy to read them, so he just stacked them up in his bedroom. The stacks grew to four feet tall and covered most of the floor space that wasn't consumed by his bed and his desk. He kept saying he was going to read them. As I recall, he boxed them up and took them with him when he moved back to Richmond to attend law school.

John subscribed to the New Yorker and kept back issues around until he had time to read them. His mother complained once about having nothing to read, so we offered to bring her a dozen old copies of New Yorker. She said, "That news is old," scoffing at our offer.

I subscribe to three or four magazines. I do not read them cover to cover, but frequently keep them. In the past few weeks, I've started tossing the issues of Oprah and Simple Living after briefly flipping through them. I don't have time to sew or knit or bead, and those are my passions. I cannot practice my passions and find time to read magazines that are not passions. There has to be a dividing line between things about which I'm passionate and things that are merely interesting.

I have subscribed to Threads magazine for 16 years and I have every copy. However, Taunton Press has just produced a DVD containing every issue, every photo, every advertisement from the first volume, first issue to the November/December issue of 2009. That's 149 issues. It costs $149.95. If I bought that DVD, I could give away all my old copies of Threads and not worry that I was losing valuable information. There's another dividing line: I have boxes and boxes of Threads magazines that I never look at; I could have all of them on one disc and at least when I wanted to find a specific article or scan through old issues, I could search and find the article I wanted. But $150? That's a lot of money. Argh!

Okay, so you see the kinds of decisions I'm faced with as I try to neaten up and declutter the place. I didn't even address all the antique clocks that I don't really have a place for. Should I just stick them all on a shelf in the basement until I figure out where to put them? Again, argh!

So back to the story in mind when my attention was diverted by the thoughts of stacks of magazines. We got home from Cleveland Sunday evening after our fun weekend with friends, and the Jazzman disappeared while I was tending to laundry and kitchen. We had spent portions of the weekend discussing closet space. When I went upstairs in search of him, he was in my bedroom. He opened the armoire door and proudly showed me all the hangers he had pulled out of my closet and consolidated in one side of the armoire. (Really, he was like a squirrel with a stash of acorns. Or like Boston with all his Star Wars Legos mini-figures.) Yeah, okay, so I take a blouse or a jacket off the hanger, and I leave the hanger there. And your point is …? Oh, yeah, now I remember. Your point is I don't have enough space in my closet for all my clothes.

Well, really, I wanted to smack him. Why? Partly because he was right. But also partly because I was embarrassed by my un-neatnik behavior. And I was going to have to find someplace to put those hangers, something to do with them. That's my biggest problem: If I don't know what to do with something, it just sits there. I'm immobilized by things that I don't know what to do with. I was fretting about what to do with the hangers. So I ignored them.

When I got home from rehearsal on Monday night, I ran downstairs to deal with laundry. I glanced around the basement and, Voila!, the hangers had magically transported themselves from my bedroom to the basement. Or some thoughtful man who is simultaneously funny and kind had brought them to the basement for me so I wouldn't have to worry my little head about them.

I'm telling you, this man is a keeper. A neatnik and a keeper.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dos and Don'ts; Wills and Won'ts

When you meet someone new—and things are going well—you wonder how to ask the right questions to determine compatibility, or to determine if you have a chance at a long-term relationship.

Some of the attributes that come to mind are:
  • Over or under?

  • Seat up or seat down?

  • Drain dry or wipe? (Dishes, People. Dishes!)

  • Make the bed every morning, or leave it rumpled?

  • Open the shades or leave the room dark?

The Jazzman broached the subject of over or under first, and we simultaneously said "over". I would have been happy with "replace the roll". I've known too many men who just leave the empty core in place, stranding the next occupant of the royal throne.

Seat up or down? If you're going to worry about the position the last occupant left the seat, you've got far bigger problems in the relationship than the position of the seat! I'm just so happy to have a man around to use the toilet, I don't care in what state it is abandoned. Really! Did he flush? Woo hoo!

Let the dishes air dry? Fine, unless you have a topic you want to discuss or a story you want to tell. Then pick up the dishtowel and let's work together to clean up the kitchen. Otherwise, why do you think God invented air? To dry the dishes!

Make the bed? I like crawling into a made bed at night, but I've been known to leave it rumpled when I'm in a hurry or feeling rebellious. To find a man who will grab his side of the sheet and help you make the bed? That, my friends, is heaven.

Open the shades? I like light in a room. I only leave my bedroom shades down because I usually get home after dark and don't want passers-by to know whether I'm home or not. Too much dark depresses me. Again, to find a man who reaches over and opens the shades to let the light in? Heaven!

I wonder if my attitude is the typical attitude of a widow, and completely different for an over-50 single person who is only experienced with divorces and the accompanying recriminations and anger.

Maybe my attitude is borne of my last long-term relationship—four years with a complete.and.utter.slob. Or the years with the Mormon husband who said, "The outside of the house is mine; the inside of the house is yours." He meant it. Totally. Wash a dish? Make a bed? Nope. Unh uh. Not gonna happen. You remember the story about …. Oh, never mind. He's someone else's problem now. Whew!

I think, with the Jazzman, I made sure he knew early on that I was allergic to tobacco and, especially, cigars. I think I also mentioned issues in the past with excessive drinking. (No, not mine.) I don't think I really got into all the little checklists that single people do when they start dating again. I think I figured things would work themselves out. Boy, have they!

I do think that I'm incredibly lucky in finding a man with whom I'm so completely and easily compatible.

And who is so damned much fun!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mini-Trip Report: Cleveland Weekend

AlegriaCan you imagine what it's like to step into the life of a man who has a wide circle of close, long-time friends? For me, it's heaven. These people, some of whom have known each other 40 years or more, have welcomed me with open arms, and I am deeply grateful. Chronic readers known I left a wide circle of friends in Tucson and have gone two years without having a group of friends I could call and say, "Let's meet for a drink." These gregarious friends are food for my soul.

Another nice thing about these people is that they are goers and doers. Sit at home in front of the television? Not if there's something better to do!

Our something better this weekend was a field trip to Cleveland. Fourteen of us drove to Cleveland on Saturday morning, meeting another two who live in Cleveland. Ten of us stayed at the Marriott Key Center, with views of Lake Erie. We experienced but didn't love Circle de Soleil Alegria, then had a loud and long dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant followed by drinks back at the hotel. In the morning we had another loud and long meal downstairs, followed by departures to return to Youngstown.

Our traveling companions, Diane and Mike, had planned a Sunday side trip to Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, where we visited the Wade Memorial Chapel to see a fabulous Tiffany window and Tiffany-designed mosaics. Then we climbed to the top of the Garfield Memorial to see the view of Lake Erie.

It was a significant weekend for the Jazzman and me. Saturday marked three months since our first date. Knowing I am the veteran of a string of three-month relationships begun on the Match website, he has expressed apprehension about being able to survive this milestone. As Marilyn K. was running around the table at the restaurant, snapping pictures of everyone in the party, I said, laughingly, "It's our three-month anniversary." "What are you," she popped back at me, "seventeen?" I laughed harder. I do a lot of that around these people.

So the three month marker is in the rear view mirror. And we continue moving forward.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Update on Miss Adie

I told you previously about my colleague's new daughter who was born at 30 weeks.

She is growing and prospering and thriving from lots of "kangaroo care". I had never heard of kangaroo care before, but am quite impressed by this practice.

Miss Adie ("ADD-ee") is now five weeks old and weighs in at a whopping four pounds, eight ounces. As soon as she can remember to breathe all the time, she'll be able to come home and spend time with her big sister. Her parents are hopeful this will occur within a couple of weeks.

Good job, Adie.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Six Months' Planning Window

The Light in the PiazzaIt's April. That means in six months PianoLady (my college piano duet partner) and I will meet on Broadway for our annual NYC weekend. We chatted at length last night about potential shows to see this year. Oh, and aging. She turns 60 twenty days before I do. She has two children in college and one still in high school. I have grandchildren who are almost 9 and 7 and think they're teenagers (not that there's anything wrong with that)!

As I reminisced about previous years' trips and the shows we've seen, I wanted to listen to some wonderful music again, so loaded "The Light in the Piazza" soundtrack onto my iPhone. Oh, how luscious this music is. Adam Guettel—yet another incredibly talented Interlochen alum—did a brilliant job on this score.

And, for the first time since first hearing this lovely music in 2005, I have someone in my life. A someone about whom I can say, "You are good. You are good to me."

If you want to spend 99 cents on something quite wonderful, download "Say It Somehow" and listen. Or download any of the songs from "The Light in the Piazza." It's, simply, fabulous.

Why don't you trace it on my hand
Or make a song
Do anything

Say it somehow
I will understand
I know you

You are good

The song inside you
This I know
It's like a melody
Like there you go just now

Say it somehow
Somehow you can show me

Say it somehow
Anyway you can
You know me
You are good
Oh, you are good
You are good to me

I know this sound
Of touch me
I think I hear
The sound of love
Your arms around me


Shout and dance
With wings

Or say it silently

Tell me things

I keep the musical score on my piano. Two weeks ago, Ridley was playing the piano and looked up at the book. She picked it up and read aloud, "The Light in the Pizza." I laughed 'til tears were streaming down my cheeks.

PianoLady and I are thinking maybe this is the year for the "West Side Story" revival.

What's your suggestion?
- - - - - - - - - -
P.S. PianoLady did some preliminary searching, and determined that the West Side Story run appears to be ending in September, before our October trip. More searching ahead.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Changing Plans

IrelandFor most of 2009, I was feeling rather mopey about turning 60. I knew 60 was just around the corner, and I didn't want to get anywhere near that corner. So when I heard about the WYSU Enchanting Ireland tour, and especially when I realized my birthday would arrive while the tour was in Ireland, I signed up. I figured I was going to be alone for the rest of my life and I might as well just suck it up and enjoy the ride. I paid my deposit and bought a guidebook to Ireland.

In late September, my Tucson girlfriend, Gail, traveled to south central Ohio for her aunt's memorial service. Gail and I met for brunch on Sunday and spent delightful hours together. Gail is a former flight attendant, and when I told her about the trip to Ireland, she eagerly asked, "Would you like me to go with you?" We've traveled together before and are very compatible. I thought it was a great idea, and we began making our plans.

Then the new year arrived and my world turned upside-down when I met the Jazzman. As he and I became dearer and dearer to each other, I felt sad each time I thought of being away from him for two weeks—and especially over my 60th birthday—for the trip to Ireland. When he went to Florida in late March for a week of golf, the impending two-week absence became more real, and more dreaded. But Gail and I had made our plans, and I knew we would have a great time.

Then last Sunday Gail called and told me about a recent health issue that may require surgery and an extended recuperation. "Jan," she said gently, "I may have to cancel the trip." I felt incredibly-mixed emotions. Here was a dear friend undergoing an enormous health threat, and simultaneously here was a chance to get out of the trip so I could spend my birthday with my beau while not being untrue to my girlfriend. I could be a good, true and loyal friend and still get what I wanted.

So after a handful of phone calls over several days with Gail, and a handful of e-mails to the WYSU tour contact, I have cancelled my June trip to Ireland. I've sent Gail my best wishes and will continue to check in with her and follow up. She's suggested she might just fly up here on June 22nd so we can find an Irish pub and celebrate our lives. And I've asked the Jazzman if he'll take me out for my birthday.

I told Gail I firmly believe that things work out the way they're supposed to. So we're going to believe that, for her, that means that early diagnosis is the key and she'll have a long and happy life ahead.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Gettin' My Scheisse Together

Messy ClosetWe visited the Jazzman's mother on Saturday afternoon. She has a sweet little condo southeast of Columbus. The size of the unit is probably about 1100 square feet—about the size of the condo FOMC and I had in Sarasota when our boys were about two and four. But the woman has a walk-in closet, and it's immaculate. I covet her walk-in closet!

My large 1927 home has a small closet in each of the four bedrooms. To supplement that, I have a large antique armoire and a double dresser in my bedroom. And I have a hanging rack in the basement. And, yet, I have stuff everywhere. Clothes everywhere. I've started putting all my handcrafted [hand-dyed quilted silk] jackets in the closet in the grandkids' room. But that doesn't solve the problem. That's the closest I've come to sorting my wardrobe. There is no plan.

I start putting, for example, t-shirts in one drawer and sweaters in another. But then the drawer gets full, and both t-shirts and sweaters go into a third drawer. So when I want a specific t-shirt, as I did this morning, I simply cannot find it. I quickly riffle through three drawers, and am unable to find the shirt I'm looking for, so I totally change what I plan to wear that day.

A similar situation occurs in my sewing room. My very long workday dictates that I have minimal time for sewing. I sit down to work on a project, and I can't find something I need for a specific task. I start digging through drawers and boxes, then shelves and storage bins, and I cannot find the tool I seek. I waste half an hour looking for the tool and by the time I find it, my available time is exhausted.

My stuff expands to fill all available space. I am a space junkie. I need SpaceEaters Anonymous!

I've been working since the first of January to keep my house in an orderly fashion, such that if someone knocked on my door I would not be embarrassed to ask him or her into my home. I've kept that up for three months. I guess now it's time to apply that same concept to my closets.

I'm not sure where or how to start. I didn't develop this tendency overnight, and I'm probably not going to be able to solve the problem overnight. But it's got to stop. Got. To. Stop.

By documenting the problem in this space, maybe I'll give myself the kick in the butt that I need to start the process.

Now I'm committed to reporting in on my progress. Hold me to it, okay?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Trip Report: Easter with the Fam

The Jazzman and I drove to Columbus on Saturday afternoon to spend Easter with his family. His mother, two brothers and their wives, and one of his nieces (with two daughters) all live in the Columbus area. The [younger] second niece flew in from Minneapolis for the weekend.

We stopped at his brother's office, then grabbed a Reuben at the deli across the street. Next stop, Columbus Museum of Art to feast our eyes on some Chihuly: bowls inspired by Native American blankets and baskets, chandeliers, and Mille Fiore. I try to never pass up an opportunity to admire beautiful glass. Next we checked into the hotel, then headed down to Canal Winchester to visit with his mother, returning back to the brother's house in German Village so I could meet his sister-in-law and the younger niece. The other niece arrived in a few minutes with her boyfriend, and we grabbed a cab to the Short North for the gallery hop, drinks at one bar, dinner at a Greek restaurant, and a birthday party at another bar. By 10:00 I was exhausted and we bowed out of the party, grabbed a cab and settled into our hotel.

Sunday morning, his brother, sister-in-law and the younger niece walked over, and we walked down High Street to First Watch for breakfast. While they attended mass, we checked out of the hotel and headed to the Book Nook for some serious browsing. Soon church was over and the entire family, including the older niece's two daughters and her boyfriend's two daughters, assembled back at the house and drove to the Athletic Club for a way-too-much-food Easter brunch, including Easter bunny and chocolate fountain. Back to the house, where the little girls opened their Easter baskets, I played a few pieces on the piano, the Jazzman and I changed clothes, and we left to drive back to Ytown.

The Jazzman drove for the entire trip, giving me the gift of time to knit. It also gave us lots of uninterrupted time to talk about repairs and repurposing that need to be done around my old home. This is our second trip together, with the third coming up next weekend—a Cirque de Soleil performance in Cleveland and overnight with seven other couples. We've decided we enjoy traveling together and do it well.

I think the nicest thing I got out of the weekend was when one of the sisters-in-law said, "Welcome to the family." The iffiest was when one of the nieces said, "I hope Uncle Jazz keeps you until December so you can play Christmas carols for us to sing." I laughed.

I close with a treat for your eyes: Chihuly Mille Fiore currently on display at the Columbus Museum of Art.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Enjoyable Reading: Happens Every Day

The Professor e-mailed me the other day with another book selection. This man and I only dated for about six weeks, but we'll be friends forever. He has a sixth sense for the songs and books that interest me and is quick to send me suggestions. This one hit the mark, totally!

The book is Isabel Gillies' "Happens Every Day," a memoir of the life and death of her marriage. Much of the action takes place in Oberlin, Ohio, a sweet small college town where it seems nothing could go wrong. Or quite this wrong. The book opens with Gillies' husband hanging dozens of family pictures in the bathroom, which immediately got me thinking about the downstairs powder room in my house and how I could give it some character.

I tend to lose myself in books. I love reading books and watching movies that are set in places I know. Tyler and I visited Oberlin when he was college-shopping but, as I remember, he felt it would be Interlochen South and wanted to break out of that mode. Plus Youngstown wanted him badly and made him an offer I couldn't refuse. But I digress.

I've dated plenty of men who, I joke, had "Scoundrel" tattooed on their foreheads. Gillies' former husband, Josiah, is just such a man, a man with no ethics or moral fiber. The Professor, in giving me his take on the book, referred to him as a "world class narcissistic coward." Powerful words.

I'm about halfway through "Happens Every Day," and loving every word Gillies has written. I hope she will write more, as I like her style and feel it is similar to my [blog-]writing style.

As I was doing a Google search to find out more about her, I noticed that her book was listed on NPR's Fresh Air's Top Ten Books. I will definitely have to explore that list some more, if all those books are of this caliber.

What are you reading?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Knock, Knock

Happy April Fool's Day

I am particularly partial to jokes with a musical twist. I'll share several with you today.

The first is particularly sophomoric. My daddy would tell it in the operating room, and I remember my high school boyfriend's sister complaining after hearing it when she was a student nurse making her circulation through my daddy's operating room.

There was this guy who got three kittens. He named the first "Fluffy" because he was the fluffiest. He named the second "Sleepy" because he was the sleepiest. And he named the third "Liberace" because he was the pianist. (Peeingest—get it?")

That joke never failed to make me laugh. I guess that tells you how rigidly we were raised in the South if someone found that to be a risqué joke!

I learned my next favorite musical joke when I was about 18, and it remains on my top five list of told and retold jokes.

Knock, Knock.
Who's there?
Sam and Janet.
Sam and Janet who?
Sam and Janet Evening (sung to the tune of "Some Enchanted Evening")

Love that joke!!

There's another one about Roy Rogers, wearing his fabulous, expensive new cowboy boots, hopping on Trigger and riding out through the desert where a puma runs up and grabs his new boots off his feet and runs off. Roy continues riding through the desert trying to find the puma so he can get his boots back. The punch line is "Pardon ie, Roy, is that the cat that chewed your new shoes?", sung to the tune of Chattanooga Choo Choo. The musical aspect tickles me, but there's also the length of the joke. It's one of those you can just drag on and on by throwing in more and more details, thus making the punch line completely unexpected.

There's another my DC singer ex-IBMer friend Rob likes to tell about C, E-flat, and G walking into a bar. The bartender looks at them and says, "I'm sorry, we don't serve minors." That joke can also be extended with more musical twists by changing the names of the notes who walk in. Major, minor, augmented, diminished. Love it!

The book I'm reading, and not really enjoying, gave me one more musical joke.

A guy is alone for Christmas, so he goes to a diner to treat himself to a little Christmas breakfast. He orders the Eggs Benedict. A little while later, the waiter brings his meal in a hubcap. He looks at it and says, "Hey man, what's with the hubcap?" And the waiter replies, "There's no plate like chrome for the Hollandaise."

Get it? "There's no place like home for the holidays."

Okay, I guess you gotta be a musician with a sick sense of humor to enjoy these.

Ridley, almost seven years old, said se was going to play an April Fool's joke on her daddy by telling him it was a day off from work. I told her that wouldn't work for someone who worked for himself. I don't think she got it. Ah, the innocence of youth.

And now that I've told you the joke from the book I'm reading, I can finally delete it from my iPhone without finishing it. The luxury of age is not having to slog through a book just because you bought it!

Feel free to comment back here with your favorite joke. Or just enjoy the silliness going on all around you today.

(Thanks to Rob for e-mailing me the corrections to today's post.)