Thursday, September 30, 2010

Letting Your Mind Wander

Last night CityMusic Cleveland, under the baton of James Gaffigan, presented an all-Beethoven concert at the stately and beautiful Stambaugh Auditorium. A free concert!

(Many thanks to PNC, Internet Data Management, Dana School of Music, Monday Musical and Stambaugh Auditorium for making this free concert possible.)

As I sat there listening to this beautiful music, my mind began to wander. I attend concerts, as I read books and watch movies, to enjoy and escape, not to critique. And invariably my mind wanders.

This is the thing—the only thing—that I miss about my 60-mile daily commute. I had so much time to think with all that driving. Think and listen to books and catch up with friends.

I find that, without so much time to think, my blog posts are scarcer and thinner of content. So it was fun to sit there and just watch my mind go where it wanted.

The summer I spent studying with Nadia Boulanger in Fontainebleau, France, I attended more concerts in a shorter span of time than at any other time in my life. I can't tell you the number of dresses I designed and rooms I decorated in my mind that summer. It was a wonderfully creative time.

Isn't the mind a wonderful thing? I've had a favorite saying for years—I heard it back when my sons were watching Sesame Street every day: "walking backwards through the cobwebs of my mind." I just love that saying. The mental image of trying to dig back to facts I once knew but now have faded is so apt, and a bit uncomfortable as I age!

This morning I have a new favorite saying, from the mouth of a very bright young lady and totally girly girl: Last night I sat on the floor, knitting, next to the bathtub as Ridley was taking her bath. She was telling me about her favorite book she reads at school. When she asked if I knew the book and I said no, she said, "Let me read it to you from my mind."

Doesn't that just make you want to leap for joy?!

Here's to having time to listen and hear and think and create. And read from your mind.

What's your best thinking time?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Don't Need Any Help!

I have some bee-YUU-tiful wool yarn I bought a year ago in a darling little shop in Berkeley Springs, WV. When I bought it, I thought I'd make an afghan or throw for the living room. This year I'm in the mood to knit a short kimono sweater.

<Sidebar On>
In case you're a knitter and dying to know, the colors I bought are deep hot pink, deep purple, mustard and teal. I'm making Dofuko on page 67 of "Knit Kimono: 18 Designs with Simple Shapes" by Vicki Square, published by Interweave Press. I'll make the body pink, one sleeve teal and one sleeve mustard, then use the purple for the cording between the color and the body. Yes, I will have to order more yarn. It should take me, oh, the next two years.
<Sidebar Off>

I've got a couple of trips coming up and wanted to get the project together for traveling. Last night, when I got home from rehearsal, I sat in front of the television for half an hour to wind the first ball. (Of course the Jazzman wanted to know why it didn't come already wound into a ball, and I couldn't answer him. My best answer was that the really good, high quality wool doesn't come in a ball. I don't know if that answer is anywhere near factual, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

This morning when I was in the shower, I heard some thumping and bumping outside the bathroom. Of course my mind immediately went to a burglar being in the house stealing all my arts and crafts books or cans of paint or shredded bank statements or something.

When I got out of the shower, I started searching for the thumper-bumper. As I walked into the family room, I saw about 50 feet of yarn spread all over the room. Angel was crouched down, peering under a small chest, where I found—ta dah—my newly-wound ball of yarn, less the 50 feet of yarn that had become its tail.

Listen, Cat, if I wanted your help I'd ask for it! Right now you're treading on very thin ice. The day may come where you live permanently in the basement!

Oh, wait, there's far more mischief to be had in the basement. I guess I'll just suck it up and put my yarn in a drawer when I'm done with it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Quarter-Angel

I had grandma duty over the weekend, while my grandchildren's parents headed to a remote Pennsylvania cabin to celebrate their 12th anniversary with six of their nearest and dearest friends.

It turned out to be a weekend filled with laundry and kid activities. Lots of laundry. And lots of kid activities. Birthday parties. Ballet rehearsals. Play dates.

When I was stripping my bed on Sunday morning to return the Grandma Suite to its normal pristine condition, I found a quarter on the mattress pad. I wondered if it was a test to see if I cleaned up after myself. My second thought was that it was a sign. Let's see, what could it be a sign of? A sign that I'm a good grandma? A sign that I will soon get out of my financial funk? I shoved it deep into my jeans pocket and smiled, willing to accept either sign.

The parents arrived home around 10:15 on Sunday night, and a very tired aging grandma went home, where she found that her sweetheart had done all the laundry and the grocery shopping. Talk about Good Guy Points! His bank account is overflowing!!

This morning I woke up after a much-needed good night's sleep in my own bed. I swung my feet to the floor, sat up, and looked down. A quarter! There was a quarter on the floor!

I'm starting to think there are "Angels Watchin' Over Me", as the old song says, leaving quarters to let me know I'm on the right track to financial solvency.

Or that I can't hold my money!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Do You Do - Well?

Yes, I know the old saying, "If it weren't hard, they wouldn't have to pay me." But I'd like to get through one day feeling like I know what I'm doing for the entire day.

I work in a dynamic environment, and things—clients, what those clients want displayed on their Web sites—change on a daily basis. That means the worker—um, me—must be able to adapt. Instantly.

I'm 60 years old. My "instant" is your "just a minute". Multiply that by the number of minutes in a day, and you get a good portion of the day where I'm feeling incompetent, incapable, or just plain dumb. It feels horrible.

I try not to succumb to those feelings, but sometimes I just want to sit and sob. Or stick my head in the toilet and flush.

I try to devise strategies to turn down the volume of the you're-stupid voice in my head. Sometimes it works; sometimes not.

Yesterday I sat here trying to remember what I do well. I remember writing and editing and proofreading and indexing. I did all of those well. But it's been a while since I had a job where I did those on a regular basis. It's been three years. Three years of banging my head against a wall on a regular basis. Ouch!

My challenge is to find ways to reincorporate those things I do well into my monthly (or weekly, or daily) life.

What do you do well? How do you make it a regular part of your life? Are you lucky enough to do it for pay?!

Monday, September 20, 2010

What Goes Around . . .

I walked backwards in time this morning.

We have a Monday morning kick-off meeting. My boss walked in dressed—gorgeously, if I may say—in a dark suit, [white?] shirt, and rich orange tie. The fabric was rich. The color was rich. I wanted to pet his tie, but I restrained myself.

He looked fabulous.

I was suddenly back in Paris in the summer of 1971. I had searched all the guidebooks about the best, most special gifts to purchase in Paris to take back to one's American friends. The book suggested handmade silk ties for men. I walked into one of these tie shops and picked out a fabulous purple silk brocade for one brother and another fabulous orange silk brocade for the other brother. The ties were handcrafted and shipped to the States.

About a year later I asked the brother to whom I had given the orange tie whether he had ever worn it. He responded, "Men don't really wear orange ties."

Nyah. Nyah. Nyah. In 2010, men wear orange ties. And they look brilliantly dressed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do You Etsy?

I completely love Etsy! I am determined that one day soon I will have an Etsy shop to sell bags and beaded items and vintage scarves.

If the Etsy site is new to you, it's a virtual gallery and shop for all kinds of art and for vintage items. Prices are fixed—it's a store, not an auction. There's even a section where you can commission an item from an artist, as I did the extra-large cat basket for my extra-large cat.

There are thousands of creative people congregated on Etsy and today, instead of spending time writing a post, I'm going to get back to work and just point you to some fun and interesting items.

I went into Etsy and searched on "piano". Lookee at all the fun I found!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy People

I'm two weeks into my new gig as accompanist of Youngstown's Stambaugh Chorus. I'm brushing up the fingerwork on a bunch of Christmas and holiday songs, and I'm learning—for the first time at age 60—the Poulenc "Gloria". Ouch!

The "Gloria" is tough, tough, tough. Fortunately, the movements average about 2 minutes and 57 seconds each, so they're just bite-sized pieces. When I get about fives pages into a movement, I realize there's an end in sight. The light at the end of that movement's tunnel is not an oncoming train.

Okay, I'll confess that I don't love music that's written with a whole lot of sharps or flats. I don't just want the keys of C, G and F, but I don't like pushing my old brain too hard. Call me lazy if you will. But the Poulenc? There are so many accidentals on the page! Honestly, I should be paid by the amount of ink on the page, rather than just the amount of time I'm actually sitting and playing.

I'm enjoying working with this group, and I love working with Dr. Lee. He is so encouraging to the chorus. He's so enthusiastic about their music-making efforts. I can't imagine anyone ever leaving one of his rehearsals in tears (which, by the way, I've seen happen elsewhere).

The choristers are all friendly to me, which is nice, since I tend to turn into an introvert in new environments. Last night I directed the sectional for the women, and several women complimented me on my work. Whew! I'm hopeful they'll never know how anxious I was about leading that sectional!

The fun anecdote from last night was when a singer introduced herself to me and we realized our grandchildren go to school together and are good friends. Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley really is a small world.

All is well in my musical world, and I'm so glad to be playing on a regular basis again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Musical Tastes

Miss Ridley got her own room a couple of weeks ago, and within days the walls hosted two Justin Bieber posters and one Beatles poster. She's seven years old!

I think I started listening to the radio when I was nine. That would have been in 1959, and I remember, still, many of the songs. I had a radio in my bathroom (yes, I had my own bathroom), and I would spend hours in there singing along to the music. (No, I don't know why the radio wasn't in my bedroom. Some facts defy memory.)

My mother would drive me to school, four miles away, about a 15-minute drive. In the afternoons I would tune the car radio to the station I wanted (WLOF?) and she would turn it off. She severely disliked my preferred music. As I think back, I don't remember her ever turning the radio on to listen to music. She would occasionally sit down to play the piano, but I was too naive to know it was impolite to call from the other room, "That's a C#, not a C." Pretty soon she quit playing the piano when I was around. (Sorry, Mom.)

(Daddy, on the other hand, had music going constantly. Ballads from the 40s or good hot New Orleans jazz. He was the one who introduced me to Ferrante & Teicher and Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and Broadway show tunes. Some of my favorite memories of him were his sitting, after a day spent standing in the operating room, in the recliner in his all-red den. The stereo played a favorite jazz record, a baseball game was in progress on the muted TV in front of him, and he was working the daily crossword puzzle out of the Orlando Sentinel. (My introduction to crossword puzzles came as I sat at his feet and tried to answer the clues he gave me.) And you wonder why I'm the ultimate multi-tasker?)

(In another side-note, as crazy as Ridley is about JB, Boston is equally disdainful of him. If we're in the car and a JB song even comes on in a commercial, Boston commands me to change the station. I don't know what fuels his hatred, but it is strong!)

I preferred music when there weren't music videos to accompany them. I just love the music and the accompaniment and want to form my own mental images. Why does everything have to be so produced? I actually saw JB perform once on a TV show, and the only word that came to mind was "contrived."

My feelings—and Boston's—aside, I heard something on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" last weekend that blew me away. Did you know that, at any time, 3% of Twitter's servers are filled with tweets regarding Justin Bieber? 3%! According to a Twitter employee, they have "racks of servers" dedicated to him. Can you say "phenomenon?" That's a whole lot of tweetin' goin' on!

My opinion of JB? I just want to grab his head and muss up that perfect hair. No sixteen-year-old boy should have hair that perfect!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Time: Things You Might Not Think About

In case, you just dropped in here on a random Google search, you should know I work from home. Most of my interactions are through text messages, either iPhone or Gmail. I rarely talk to people.

In the old days when I drove an hour each way to work, I had lots of time to think, talk on the phone, listen to audiobooks, and sing along with the radio. Now I rarely have time to breathe. I met with my boss for half-an-hour this morning, face-to-face (!), and my todo list today is long enough that it could last all week.

I don't have time to think about things I want to say on my blog. I used to have five ideas pop into my head during my morning commute, and I also had the time to develop those ideas. Now? Forget it! I might have three ideas a week, and as soon as they pop into my head, they're gone. Gone! (Yeah, okay, so that's part and parcel of being sixty years old! Argh!!)

The Jazzman goes out for drinks every Friday night with his nearest and dearest drinking buds. Sometimes the buds go home before he does, and he ends up at Lemon Grove with his cousin and his wife. I suggested to Jazzman that he could call me, even at 11:00 p.m. on a Friday, and I'd meet him down there. When he suggested I'd probably be asleep, I told him I'd be happy to get up and get dressed again just to have a face-to-face conversation with adults. (I don't think he was swayed. That 11:00 p.m. call hasn't happened yet!)

So this post is an apology to myself for not having or making the time to post as I'd like. I really miss the creativity of writing posts for this blog. But I'm having to make do with the creativity of updating Web pages for client after client.

Oh, and here's a commitment to write more posts. I have to tell you about how I'm decorating the house with Mother's furniture; and the beautiful new window sill in the library; and my fabulous new office that Jazzman created. And my new piano.

(On that last one, I'm sure you can feel the heat from the glow of my smile wherever you are.)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Two Hearts, One Talented Family

On Saturday morning I sat in a packed-full church in Brecksville, OH, to participate in the wedding of a friend with whom I sing in the CleveOrch Chorus. I have never been to a wedding that had so much music, all of it great! What a wonderful celebration this was!

Rather than beginning the music fifteen minutes before the ceremony, the music began right at noon, the announced hour for the wedding. There were five "prelude" numbers, including a duet sung by the bride's brothers. The mothers were then escorted to the front by their respective sons, where the mothers each lit a memorial candle to honor family members who passed on prior to the bride and groom's wedding day. After lighting the bride's candle, the bride's mother sang a solo, which was just exquisite. She sang beautifully, confidently, and without a hint of a tear in her eye or a catch in her voice. More musical numbers interspersed the entire service. The groom spoke his vows, followed by the bride, who then sang a beautiful song to him. Nerves of steel! How on earth did she do that?!!!

The minister prepared the communion table, then invited the "wedding choir" to come forward. This was a group of friends and family (including me) who sing. We sang two numbers while the bread and wine was being passed among the guests. What an honor to be included in this group!

I was so touched by this beautiful service for two really nice people( who met on Isn't it amazing what we can find on the Internet nowadays?!)

And I was equally taken by the church and the minister. I am not into church at all, but if I were and if I lived near Brecksville, I would definitely visit this church on a regular basis.

Congratulations to Lisa and Tony, and the warmest of wishes for a wonderful and long life together.