Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Non-Vacation

Woke up with a headache Friday morning. (Watch for a trend here.) Left the house at 8:15, arrived in Hendersonville, NC, around 6:15. Stopped just inside WV to visit the Coldwater Creek Clearance Center (great deals here - bought nothing), and twice for gas and nourishment (including the Panera in Johnson City - a regular stop on this route). Went straight to Spring Arbor West and spent an hour or so with Mother, including a couple of games of Rummikub. Back to her old apartment at Fletcher Park Inn. Looked around, assessed the situation, then plopped in a chair in front of the TV to knit and relax (or wind and unwind!).

Saturday morning: Woke up with a headache. No food in the apartment, so went out for breakfast, then to Ingles to grab shampoo and food for the rest of the weekend. Back to the apartment and packed until 2:00. Went out, picked up Mother, and took her to visit my cousin, BJ, and her husband, Melvin. Chatted a little, looked at their garden, then took Mother back home and headed back toward the apartment. Head still hurting and sick to my stomach, so decided I needed a treat. Stopped at Chili's and had an appetizer and a glass of Chardonnay. A young lady walked into the restaurant and sat down a few seats away from me at the bar. Her eyes were red and she had obviously been crying. She ordered a very large beer and sat there fighting back her tears. After about 15 minutes, two young women on the other side of her started talking to her and got her to scoot over next to them and open up about her problems. I sat there and pondered the wonder of my life, then asked the bartender to give me both my check and the young lady's. I paid and walked out, anonymously, having done my good deed for the day. After a trip to Wal-Mart for more boxes, tape and paper, I went back to the apartment and packed until 10:00.

Sunday morning: Woke up with a headache. (See? I told you there was a trend!) Had planned to take Mother up to the mountains but called and told her I just could not take the hour-and-a-half drive up and another hour-and-a-half back down. At 10:30 I went out and got her, then took her to Panera for lunch. Then a drive up on Blue Ridge Parkway, then back home and said goodbye. She couldn't get her hearing aid to work, so it was a verrrry quiet drive. No talking. No hearing.

After another trip to Wal-Mart for more boxes, I returned to the apartment and continued packing and cleaning. Used the Emmy Awards broadcast as motivation to stay on my feet and keep packing until I quit around 10:00. Three more boxes left.

Monday morning: Work up at 6:30. With a headache. Threw the last of the items into boxes and finished loading the car. The movers arrived at 9:15. After filling out the paperwork, I took my knitting to the quiet little porch outside the building and sat, knitting and listening to "The Girl Who Played With Fire" for two hours.

(Found a fabulous knitting blog in German with a picture of the scarf I'm working on—only in a different colorway.) (And another picture from a different blog.)

The movers finished around 2:00. I locked the door and returned Mother's keys to the Fletcher Park Inn front desk, settled in the driver's seat, and arrived home at 11:05 p.m.

Can you say, "Exhaustion"?

P.S. Woke this morning with a headache. Waiting to hear from the family's favorite massage therapist to see when she can fit me in.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When is a Family Like a Bowl of Spaghetti?

I remember tasks from my early years as a programmer when I would be assigned to read through a very complex batch of code, trying to find an error. In those days, code had lots of GOTOs and IF-THEN-ELSEs and other twists and turns. Such code was frequently referred to as "spaghetti code."

I mentioned the other day the death of a local woman who is related by blood or marriage to lots and lots of people in the area. Visiting hours are tonight, the funeral and burial are tomorrow, and Youngstown is crawling with out-of-towners who have flown in to pay tribute to this passionate and compassionate woman.

Last night many of them gathered at the home of her first husband. (Her second husband predeceased her.) As I tried to untangle the names and relationships of everyone who will be at the funeral home tonight or the church tomorrow, I felt like I was back in my "spaghetti code" days.

"Wait, she's whose aunt? And whose grandmother? And …?" I've tried to imagine drawing the family tree of this woman, her immediate ancestors and her descendants, and I can't imagine the piece of paper that would be required to display all those lives.

Yes, I have had four marriages and numerous short-term and a couple long-term relationships. But would I be included in the people who are notified when any of these men pass on? I would only hear about FOMC's death because we share two lovely young men who are our sons, and because he's the grandfather of my beloved grandchildren. Would I be expected to show up for the services? I sincerely don't believe there's a chance in hell that I would be included. The balance of the Menu of Men Past? I won't even be notified that they are no longer on this earth.

So to try to sort out the relationships between all these uncles and cousins and friends who are here this week? It boggles my mind!

The only conclusion I can draw is that this woman, whom I met only once, must have been a pretty spectacular woman to generate this kind of will-to-honor, this drop-everything-and-get-home migration.

May her family derive comfort from the love of all who knew her.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Beauty Is

 With a tip of my Brown Thumb Society cap to my neighbors, Jean and Marilyn, I show you the beauty that is blooming this week in their garden.

I don't know what that big gorgeous maroon thing is, but I do know that the colors would have been even more vivid if I had used my real camera rather than just my iPhone.

Aren't I lucky to have such prolific gardeners living next door?

(And if you don't know the title reference, it's a fabulously beautiful song from "The Light in the Piazza". Can you tell it's getting to be that time again? In seven weeks, PianoLady and I will meet at the Marriott Marquis for our annual Broadway weekend. Yea!)

This Old House

I've mentioned that a beautiful new office is in the cards for me. Handyman/carpenter Tom finished installing the counter/desk, and building a new bookcase for the corner. The Jazzman has finished painting the walls and will get to the trim in the next day or so. I want to paint the floor (ratty old linoleum) as I saw in an episode of Trading Spaces. I'll try to get to the primer before I leave for NC on Friday.

The other tasks we found for Tom included the west window in the library. The brick wall had risen up or the window had sagged down, to the point that the window sill was angled in rather than out (\ instead of /). Over the years, water has been draining into the house—rather than out to the yard—during heavy rainstorms. As a result, the plaster and molding under the window was destroyed. Tom figured out how to cut the window sill so it was angled out and the Jazzman spent time planing and rasping and sanding to smooth it out, then priming it. It's gorgeous, or will be gorgeous when Jazz paints it.

And there was one more item that bothered me. At some point between 1927 and 2009, the owners decided to replace a couple of the old radiators with baseboard heating units. In doing so, the holes were not repaired where the water pipes came up from the basement into the radiators. When I pulled up the wall-to-wall carpeting on the first floor before moving in, I discovered the lids of tin cans nailed into the floor in four strategic places. It took me months to realize that's what the owner had done to cover up the holes under the carpeting. Without carpeting and tin can lids, I could imagine some visitor in elegant high heels falling into the 1½" square hole, breaking an ankle, and suing my pants off. (Yes, yes. That's what law school teaches us.)

Tom—brilliant Tom—found some wood left over from the other projects and cut it to fit the four holes, fitting it snugly into the holes. The result is that I no longer have holes in the floor. Yea! As soon as the Jazzman varnishes the patches to match the hardwood floor, you'll never know what happened.

Did I mention that I love having brilliant men around me?!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Work That Brain!

I love picture puzzles. I love jigsaw puzzles. Whatever you want to call them, I love sitting, touching, fingering, and finding a home for each solitary piece.

My fondest memories of my childhood and youth are of coming home after school, putting a recording of a Broadway musical or Gilbert & Sullivan operetta on the turntable, and singing along at the top of my lungs while putting together a picture puzzle. I loved those times and relive them every time I hear one of those pieces of music again.

Saturday night, after attending Dreams and Other Pools of Light in which my daughter-in-law danced and my son was musical director, I took the g'babes home with me so Ty and Jaci could attend the cast party. I pulled out my favorite picture puzzle—an old Springbok puzzle showing all the little people and cars and trucks that run around inside a computer to make the information come out—and we listened to tunes off our iPods while we assembled the puzzle. When their daddy came to pick them up at 10:30, they asked if he wanted to help us. He said, "Why, yes. I've done that picture puzzle many times." It was a very sweet moment for me.

Yesterday afternoon I opened my weekly e-mail from The New Yorker and learned they are now puzzleifying the New Yorker covers!!! Such sweet joy! I've been doing puzzles at JigZone for years. But what a treat this new service from The New Yorker is. I can assemble the cover image, then click to read feature articles from the magazine!

As my brain ages and finding words becomes slower and more laborious, this activity can only help, right?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Notes on Notes

This afternoon I'm preparing the first movement of the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem for the COChorus reaudition this evening. Technically it's being called a "sectional rehearsal" and altos are to "rehearse" from 8:30 to 10:00, but several of my friends have noted on Facebook that this is really our reaudition for the upcoming season.

You know how you can listen to a piece of music over and over in a short period of time (as I do when preparing for a concert), and then not listen to it for months? During those months, you totally forget about it. Then you play it again and remember, vividly, how much you love that music. The Brahms Requiem brings tears to my eyes each time I sing it, as it is again doing this afternoon.

I've written about this work a number of times. I think I've probably performed it five times since the mid-80s. Each time it has the same affect on me.

As I was organizing my thoughts for this post, the Jazzman came in to tell me a family friend had passed away last night. I felt sad for her children and grandchildren to lose her, and yet relieved for her that she's finished with hospitals and nursing homes and pain.

A new online friend and I have been discussing death and the Seventh-day Adventist perspective on death, which is that the dead are sleeping until the second coming of Christ. I dropped that belief when I was about 19 years old and two of my dearest friends were killed in a car wreck in their first year of college. My experiences with John's death lead me to believe that there is a spirit world where we go. I find no fear in that belief. I don't know if I believe I'll come back—be reincarnated—after a period of time in the spirit world. I tend to hope not; this life hasn't been a piece of cake and I sure don't want to have to live through these hardships again! But fear? No, I don't fear death.

The final movement of the Brahms, in a loose translation from the German, reads:

Into Paradise may the Angel lead them;

at thy coming may the Martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.

May the Choir of Angels receive thee, and with Lazarus, once poor, may thou have eternal rest.

I desire to live my life every day so that I have no fear of what comes next.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Paper Everywhere

My beautiful new office is nearing completion, and I spent most of Saturday sorting through and consolidating files and throwing away papers that didn't need to be kept or referenced.

It's astonishing how I can accumulate so much stuff! I shredded several files full of old bank papers, and took two black trash bags to the curb. I'm not yet pleased with how much stuff I have to move back into the office when it's finished, but it's a far cry better than it was.

I've started the thought process of a similar purging in the sewing room. I don't even want to think of the yards and yards of fabric I've collected over the past 15 years. Nor do I want to think of the pain of ridding my shelves of all that cotton, silk and linen.

But it's gotta be done! The process of sorting through Mother's things two weeks ago, and the impending packing that will take place this coming weekend convinces me that it must be done.

I think the kindest thing I can do for my children is keep an orderly house with minimal unneeded stuff.

When's the last time you cleaned out a closet?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Books and Movies

Next Wednesday night is WYSU movie night again. My knitting buddy Melinda works for WYSU and we try to coordinate our movie watching so we at least get that time to socialize every month even if I can't make knitting group. She brings whatever sock or washcloth she's working on at the moment and we sit, watch, and knit. We are the ultimate multitaskers.

This month the movies are "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Nanny McPhee Returns". I'm inclined to see EPL, although Melinda wants to read the book first. I normally prefer to read books first, but for some reason I had no desire to read EPL. I think it's because it was such a phenom, and I tend to shy away from fads—or what I deem to be fads. And I think I'd rather see Nanny McPhee with the g'babes. So I'm not sure how Melinda and I are going to resolve this impasse.

Speaking of phenoms and contradicting myself, I'm listening to "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." I bought the book but just couldn't find the time to sit with it. Then when my Audible subscription renewed, I bought and downloaded it. Now I keep the hardcopy by my bed and reference it when I'm wondering how a name is spelled. I'm having a hard time following the story, and might just listen to it again when I travel back to Asheville next Friday.

I'll be going alone next weekend (unless the Jazzman changes his mind again and decides to eat up a vacation day that would be better spent doing something fun together rather than driving for 8.5 hours and packing boxes) so will have 16-20 hours to listen to audiobooks. I'm torn whether to relisten to "Dragon Tattoo" so I can pick up all the parts I missed, or get the next book in the series (which numerous people have said is better than the first), or to relisten to Musicophilia, in light of Ridley's synesthesia.

Now that I don't have my hellish commute to Akron every day, I don't get to listen to nearly so many books, and I miss that part of my life. But let's see—drive in rain and sleet and snow to listen to books, or work from home? Ahhh, work from home!

What are you reading?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

My little sweetie pie is nine today! I remember his birth as if it was yesterday. His mother graciously and generously invited me to join them in the delivery room, so I was able to see him make his way out and hear him cry. For the first two years of his life, I didn't work and was able to spend lots and lots of time with him. We bonded strong and sure, and he is the light in my life.

He loves: a stuffed dog named Benjamin; taking pictures with Grandma's iPhone; examining bugs and climbing trees and swimming; building with Legos and playing games on the Wii. He plays the piano and sings on pitch; he is curious about everything that exists; he plays Scrabble with his grandma and torments his sister; he loses himself in books of all kinds; he creates art on Grandma's sewing machine. He is a treasure to all who know him.

Happy Birthday, Bapa. Your grandma adores you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Headshot

I needed a headshot for my new position as accompanist of Stambaugh Chorus. My talented Jaci kindly took a few pics of me. Here's the result—what do you think?

Check out Jaci's blog to see more of her work. Became a fan on Facebook. Hire her to photograph your wedding or pregnant belly or baby or other memory-making event. You'll have an image to treasure for lifetimes to come.

P.S. Here's the bio on the Stambaugh Chorus site.

Peckin' Away

Look at this gorgeous guy! One morning last week I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a bird rat-tat-tatting on the porch shade that the Jazzman found in the basement and installed. Yesterday we were sitting on the porch with the newspaper and our cups of tea, and there he was again. After a few minutes of googling, I learned he is a Downy Woodpecker.

At first I thought Hairy Woodpecker, and I loved the name! But after reading and searching a little more, I settled on the smaller Downy Woodpecker.

Here is more photography by Terry Sohl, to whom the photo shown above is credited.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sadness is a Tantrum

Listening to Byron Katie on Rosie Radio (Sirius/XM) yesterday, I heard her say, "Sadness is a tantrum." I stopped to think how much sadness I've felt in my life. Then I thought about tantrums and how my mother despised seeing children in stores throwing tantrums. Were my feelings of sadness my attempts at throwing tantrums?

I don't know that I ever tried to throw a tantrum, but I know there would have been absolutely no way she would have allowed it. My children, likewise, didn't throw tantrums, but had they, I would have attempted to immediately stop it. My life as a mother was patterned upon my mother's practices—on the whole, not a very well-designed pattern.

During my years in psychotherapy in my 30s, my therapist said she was not surprised that I became a computer programmer. There was little in my life I was allowed to control, but as a programmer, I could control the computer.

Much of my sadness as an adult has centered around being alone and not having life turn out the way I expected, dreamed, or wanted. Sadness would wash over me as a marriage was ending, or when I felt life was hopeless. It would feel like a heavy, dark boiled wool hooded cape. Heavy. Dark.

The only sadnesses I've felt lately are when I feel I've disappointed someone. All in all, life now—in my 60s—has turned into a very different movie than I ever anticipated.

How unnecessary is sadness in your life?

I'll leave you with a Byron Katie quote regarding happiness:

You don't have to believe everything your thoughts tell you. Just become familiar with the particular thoughts you use to deprive yourself of happiness.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Who Are You? Really?

Anyone who has read this blog for, oh, longer than two weeks knows I am defined by my adoption. The perceived abandonment follows me everywhere, through marriages and jobs, into dreams and nightmares. It is who I am.

Lately I've been hearing a lot about a woman who is known as Byron Katie. Her Web site states,

The Work of Byron Katie is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the fear and suffering in the world.

In one of the radio shows I was listening to this week, the host—a great proponent of adoption—was talking about how Ms. Katie's work helps people stop focusing on the negatives of long, long ago. She enables them to, instead, build upon all they've accomplished in their lives to see who they truly are today.

Someone said Katie's work is similar to—in the same vein as—Marianne Williamson's work with "A Course in Miracles". I've heard and read some of Williamson's information, have heard her on the radio, and am familiar with the concept of positive affirmations, but for me affirmations just do not ring true. I feel like I'm trying to pull something over on myself, trying to trick myself into believing something that's just not valid.

I want to learn more about Katie and see what her work can do to set free some of the gremlins that roam around my brain.

It can't hurt, right?

(Today's photo was in a large box of photos I brought back from Mother's apartment. It was taken in late 1950, after my family got me in late June of 1950. I was five or six months old in this photo. Jim is five years old. Jerry is seven. The picture was taken in the living room of the house they were living in at the time, on Westminster St. off N. Orange Avenue, near what was then Orlando Sanitarium & Hospital. Six months later we moved into the house on Lake Maitland, where we lived until I went away to college.)

Friday, August 06, 2010

Mother's New Digs

Happy birthday to my sister-in-law, Molly, who is the genius behind how beautiful Mother's new apartment looks!

(Scroll down if you don't immediately see the pictures on your screen. I'm having a hard time getting this page to format correctly. Oh well!)

Sorting a Lifetime

I know I said I'd post again last night, but I don't have my feet on the ground yet after the whirlwind trip to North Carolina. I'm exhausted!

I'm sure there's some minor depression that's helping keep me so tired. Last night as I was going to bed, all I could think about was Mother spending the first night in her new digs. Because of the size of the place, we've switched her from a queen bed to a twin. How different to know you'll spend the rest of your nights in a twin bed after years and years of queens and kings.

Today's photo shows you what Mother's guest room looked like during my visit. We kept putting furniture in there that is coming back to Ohio so the movers would have an easier time on Thursday (yesterday). I can identify many of the items as being from the Maitland house where I grew up or the Spring Valley house where they moved when I went away to college. Going through Mother's possessions is like walking backwards through my life.

I can't say enough about the good work my sister-in-law, Molly, has done during the course of the past two years. And in the past week, Molly was an absolute genius—"take this, not that". Molly was in Mother's closet for fully two hours on Monday night, pulling and setting aside enough clothing to leave Mother with twelve linear feet of clothing on hangers. On Tuesday night, Molly spent another two hours in the closet pulling outfits together and hooking the hangers together. Thanks to all Molly's hard work, Mother will now be able to reach into the closet and pull out an outfit, not struggle to find two things that will go together.

But back to the original intent of this post: a brief recap of the week.

I left Youngstown around 8:30 last Saturday, stopped at Starbucks to cash in my birthday coupon for a mocha to sip while driving, and arrived in Hendersonville around 5:30. I stopped along the way at Tamarack to pick up something lovely for Molly's birthday and settled on a fabulous mug by WV clay artist Keith Lahti. I hit bad rain in Virginia and stopped at one point to close my eyes for a few minutes. As soon as I arrived at Mother's, we left to go to Blue Sky Cafe for some supper.

Sunday was totally devoted to sorting, culling, and packing. And preparing to sew. My primary purpose during this visit was to cut down her existing window treatments to fit the windows in the new apartment. The pleated valance over her patio door needed to be extended about eight inches. The gathered valance in the bedroom had to be cut down about twelve inches. Molly—another accomplished sewist—and I kept tossing ideas around and finally came up with a plan.

Monday I went to the Ace Hardware and got a 1"x6"x8' board which I covered with an old sheet. Then I took out several of the pleats and remade them. With my new staple gun, I attached the valance to the board. It's not perfect, but I'm probably the only person who would see the little glitch in one pleat. On the gathered valance, I thought we could just gather it more tightly onto a new rod, but Molly suggested I cut out one section and just reseam it. I took her advice, then realized that a rod pocket can't accept a rod if there's a seam in the middle of it! Knowing no one would see it, and knowing this valance only needs to last for a couple of years at most, I cut two holes in the back of the rod pocket and snaked the rod out and back in. Then I sewed a little patch across the exposed rod so the valance would gather properly. "Necessity is the mother of . . ." Oh yeah, "invention"!

My brother Jerry arrived around 12:30 on Monday and we went en masse to visit Mother's new place, Spring Arbor West (SAW). It's a very nice facility with under 40 residents. There's a lovely dining room, a café one can reserve to entertain guests or throw a small party, a game room, a library, and a light and bright sunroom with lots of white wicker and a television for watching movies. Mother's room is at the end of one of the halls, with a four-person game table situated right outside her door. Molly and Jim did a great job in choosing this place, I believe. I hope Mother will be happy there, but we'll never know—one way or the other—as this is not a person who ever discusses her feelings. About anything!

I finished the drapery alterations late Monday night. Tuesday I took the valances and rods and a few delicate items out to Spring Arbor West. Once I got out there and unloaded the paintings and clock, I realized I had forgotten the drapery hardware! (Let me clarify that the current apartment and the new apartment are about 15-20 miles apart!) I had to rush back to Fletcher Park Inn (FPI) for a 3:00 party to say goodbye to the FPI executive director who is changing jobs—she's the new executive director of Spring Arbor West! How wonderful that Mother will know someone there! The FPI management used the party to also say goodbye to Mother. I ducked out midway through and raced back out to SAW to drop off the hardware and give instructions for its installation. Then back to FPI and an evening of packing and loading Jaci's van until I just couldn't take another step.

Wednesday morning I left around 8:00, stopping only for gas and food until I got to Beckley, where I had to make another stop to buy two more of the Lahti mugs. I figured I had earned them! After a fabulous fried tomato sandwich for lunch, I tackled the rest of the trip, stopping once to nap for ten minutes. I hit horrible thunderstorms in northern West Virginia, and got home around 7:30. The Jazzman and I had hoped to go to a concert at 7:00 at Mill Creek Park, where one of his cousins was playing in a band, but his late work schedule and my long drive deemed that an impossibility.

Once home, I unloaded the car, poured a glass of wine, and collapsed. In two weeks or so, I've got to do it all over again, packing up everything that's left in the apartment and getting it loaded onto a moving van to bring it back here. I've known for years that this day was coming, but I'm in a state of shock now that it's finally here!

So there you go. A short trip that felt very long and was filled to overflowing with emotions.

May my children never have to go through this sort of exercise with me!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

LT + SS = E*

*Long Trip plus Stressful Situation equals Exhaustion. I was so deeply grateful for Jas to walk in and wrap his arms around me last evening. Stressful events such as moving an elderly parent into assisted living do not constitute happy family times.

I just wanted to report that I'm home and will write a more extensive post this evening. In the meantime, I publicly thank Jaci for loaning me her van and I show you how packed it was for the return trip!

More later … .