Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is This How It's Going to Be?

Woke at midnight last night after a couple hours of sleep. Stared at the clock for a few minutes, then grabbed my phone and went to sit on Ridley's bed, peeking out the window at the location on the street where someone would come to throw rocks at my windows. Sat there for almost 10 minutes, then gave up and went back to bed, wide awake. Lay there working crossword puzzles and playing games on my phone until I fell back to sleep at 2:00.

Tonight I have a concert and will be driving home from Cleveland from 10:15 to 11:30. That's very late for me without a good night's sleep in front of it.

I told the Jazzman about my idea for a sign: "How would you feel if someone treated your grandma this way?" He suggested I was pretty silly to think these Very Sick People possess a heart.

I wonder—even if it never occurs again—how long it will take me to relax, to be able to fall asleep easily, to not wake up in the middle of the night. To feel safe in my own home?!

Didn't your mama teach you better than this?!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Under Attack

My house is under attack. Over the course of eighteen days, some person or persons have thrown rocks through a living room window on three separate occasions. The first time could have been some random incident. But when it happened again six days later with a large rock and a chunk of concrete instead of just a pretty, polished rock, it didn't feel so random. Then when those projectiles were followed twelve days later with a 30-pound landscaping boulder, it felt like an attack.

I feel like I'm being held prisoner in my home. I have a hard time going to sleep. I feel depressed all the time. I want to sit and cry.

We were planning a winter mini-vacation to a warm and sunny location. I needed that getaway after all my December concerts. Now there will be no getaway. We have to stay here and protect hearth and home.

When my son, daughter-in-law and I lived in Mt. Pleasant, DC, our cars were broken into twice and the house broken into once in a six-month period. Our beloved Rottweiler, Justice, scared the robber out of the house before he had a chance to grab too many of our possessions (to sell for drug money). After those occurrences, we sold the house in two days for $15,000 over the asking price and moved to the other side of Rock Creek.

Now I live on the north side of Youngstown in an economic depression and I don't have quite so many options. Sure, I could put my house on the market. In two or three years it might sell for half of its market value.

I'm angry. But everything in me says the way to combat it is not to fight back, not to aggravate whatever troubled person is attacking me.

I want to post a hand-lettered on the strip of lawn next to the now-boarded-up windows saying, "I'm just a poor old widowed lady. I'm somebody's grandma. How would you feel if somebody treated your grandma the way you're treating me?"

On other days, I want to post an even larger sign that says, "Hey, Asshole. Quit it. Leave me the fuck alone."

Unfortunately, I don't think either sign would do any good. Regarding the first sign, the person(s) probably has no conscience. And the second sign? They probably never got far enough in school to learn to read!

I have no conclusion to this post. I'm sad. I'm depressed.

And yet, I'm glad to be in Youngstown. I'm where I'm supposed to be and I have a very good life, living with the Great Love of My Life, spending lots of time with Beloved Grandchildren, and singing behind the Best Band in the Land.

Even if some Asshole Unknown is pelting rocks at my home on an irregular basis.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ways to Communicate

Sometimes I feel put upon that my communication with my mother is a one-way street. The last time she picked up the phone to call my number was about a year-and-a-half ago. So that proves she does know my number, right?

But I must look at myself. I almost never call my children. Tyler and I email and text frequently through each day, as I work for him. Jaci and I see each other's posts on Facebook. We text when we need something from each other. Just call to chat? No, our lives are too busy for that, and she has friends for that function.

Scott and I are more remote. Our primary method of communication is to follow each other's posts on Facebook and to comment on those posts when we are so moved. We see each other's tweets, and—on the rare occasion we seek input from each other—we text.

Is this merely a fact of this decade? Are we not unusual, but rather the norm?

I think the fact that my mother never calls me is a self-centered trait. But am I also self-centered because I don't communicate more regularly with my children?

I hope not. More than that, I hope they don't think so!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Discovery of a New-to-Me Author

Before we left for our trip to Ireland, I asked PianoLady, an avid reader, for some reading suggestions. She gave me several suggestions, I found and downloaded them, and started listening. No joy! As you know, I want content I can get lost in. I want content that will grab me and make me not want to turn off my MP3 player. I'm not a good book club member—I don't want to analyze and pick apart a novel. I want to escape!

When I told her, six weeks later, that I just didn't love her suggestions, she was shocked. This is the first time her suggestions have failed with me.

When I had my knitter friends over for dinner a month ago, I told them this story and again asked for suggestions. Concert month (i.e. December) was coming, and I needed something to ease me through all my Cleveland commutes.

One woman—I think it was my friend Melinda—suggested the author Kate Atkinson. I went onto Audible and searched for her work. For reasons I no longer remember, I chose "When Will There Be Good News" for my Kate Atkinson starter.

Oh. Wow.

I love.Love.LOVE this woman's work!!! I am easily smitten with wordsmiths, and this author is a wordsmith par excellence! She turns phrases and crafts similes in a manner I can only hope to someday emulate.

I finished "When ..." yesterday, and plan to start it again. I loved it and am afraid I missed a few things, so want to hear it again. Then I'll go back to Audible and find more. (And the local library's MP3 shelf, just in case I can find a free download of this work.)

Kate Atkinson has been added to my Most Favored Author. Have you read her? What do you think?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time . . .

Or, it's Christmas again. As a musician, I spend my Decembers providing holiday joy and magic and concertgoers.

Last weekend I did two concerts with a local bass-baritone who has progressed very nicely in the world of opera. He's my younger son's age and is a delightful guy. We have great fun putting together a concert filled with holiday music, poems, readings, jokes and sing-a-longs. He's very secure in himself, and that enables me to just close my eyes and have a ball at the piano.

On Sunday the Cleveland set of concerts begins. From December 4 through December 23, I will sing in two rehearsals and nine concerts. And I will enjoy every minute of it. But I will also admit to being tired.

And, when it's all over, the Jazzman and I might just find someplace to spend a few days where it's warm and—hopefully—sunny.

Probably the best Christmas present I'll get is the recent knowledge that my older son has a girlfriend. He's such a unique and eccentric human being, and has been all his life. And now there's someone with whom he shares loving feelings. I'm happy and relieved. Everyone deserves to be as happy as I am!

And a Fa la la to you.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Thinking about gifting. Or, For Doug.

The adults in the Jazzman's family draw names every Thanksgiving for Christmas gifting. Financial limits are set, and the holiday becomes manageable in this economically horrific era.

One niece's significant other drew my name. And, to prevent trauma, I thought instead of just double-checking my Amazon wish list, I'd stop to think about the things I enjoy.

Many holiday gifters wrinkle their noses at gift cards. Not I!!! Whoever invented gift cards should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. With gift cards, everybody is happy. (Except those Scrooges who think they're not a real gift.)

So here's my list, which readers other than Doug might find interesting if they are interested in any of the pastimes I'm into. I hope you'll find some new treasure trove to feed your passion.

Doug - A gift card to any of these sites would be greatly welcomed (she wrote, smiling.
Or you can just visit my Amazon wish list.

Knitting
Webs, America's Yarn Store
Jimmy Beans Wool
Yarn Paradise, my guilty getaway whenever I'm in Asheville

Sewing
Waechter's Fine Fabrics, my other Asheville guilty getaway
Marcy Tilton's Art Barn Marcy is one of my teachers/mentors, and she carries some fabulous fabric and silk screens that I love to use.
Thai Silks, in Los Altos, CA, carries the most affordable and highest quality silks I've ever found.

Fabric Dyeing
Pro Chemical and Dye carries the dyes I use on silks and wools.
And Dharma Trading carries the dyes as well as scarves and silks.

Beading & Jewelry Making
Rings & Things - I sat next to one of their employees in a class at Bead Fest Philly, and this store carries everything one could imagine for beading.
Bead Q is not too far out of the way on my way to rehearsals in Cleveland. And they carry supplies for enameling, which I've newly found an interest in.

That's probably enough to confuse Doug and amuse other readers.

Ho, ho, ho.

Heaven and the Lack Thereof

First, I apologize for saying nothing for over three weeks. I honestly don't know where the time goes.

Next, if you follow all my comings and goings to NC, I will report that my visit with Mother lasted 24 hours. I used impending rain as the excuse and got out as she was walking to dinner on the second day I was there. I have two statements to make about the visit: 1) She's doing remarkably well; and 2) There's no cure for narcissism. I'm hopeful that I won't have to make that trip again until March.

And now—ta da—a current post!

I heard an interview with Carolyn S. Briggs on one or another talk show I listen to during my workdays. She wrote "Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost" in 2002. She adapted it to a screenplay, and the movie was released this year, and was nominated for the Grand Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival. I'm waiting for it to hit Netflix or Amazon.

Her interview captured my interest because of my own lack of relationship with faith, or with Christianity, or with religion. Who knows what to call it these days?!

Ms. Briggs is five years younger than I, but much of her religious life in the 70s paralleled that of mine in the same time period. There were praise sessions and home churches and speaking in tongues and other charismatic, evangelical manifestations. The major difference, though, was that she seemed to fully embrace the practices and beliefs. I, on the other hand, went along.

The pattern of much of my life has been to go along. Go along to get along. Go along so people might like you. Go along to ensure a stable and accepted place in the world. The bottom line: do anything to avoid being given away again. And so I gave myself away again and again and again.

Because our life during my first marriage was so wrapped up in church, I lost all my friends when I left my husband to regain any vestige of sanity that I ever had. In that environment, one doesn't leave her husband, regardless of how miserable she's been or how many times she's tried to escape by any means. Oh, but maybe they weren't really friends.

An example of how little I was known or understood by these people occurred after I reconciled with my husband following a three-month separation. I came back because I missed my children so terribly, and I thought he had woken up to his part in causing the separation.

During that brief period we were back together, I attended a women's bible study and prayer group in Ft. Worth, hosted by a woman in the church we had been attending. The bible study included foot washing.

<Sidebar On>
As I was growing up in the Seventh-day Adventist church, communion was observed four times a year ("quarterly") and always included a foot washing ceremony. ("Rite"? "Ritual"? "Procedure"? Whatever.) I always hated it. It seemed so artificial and contrived to me. I didn't like it any better as an adult. What was the point? But then, I've never had any use for the communion ritual, either. It's merely something we're told to do. And I've always been averse to being told what to do.
<Sidebar Off>

As I was washing the feet of a woman named Cookie (oh, the things one can still remember 30 years later), she said to me, "I hope you can be as gentle with your sons as you have been with me."

<Rant On>
Whuck? Woman, you know nothing about me. You've never been inside my home. You've never seen me with my children except in the artificial environment of two-hours-a-week church and occasional church-related social events. You don't know what it's like to run a family where the husband won't look for a real job besides selling Amway. You don't know what it's like to live with a "loving" husband who tells you that you shouldn't even take an aspirin for your many—and sometimes daily—headaches because God is trying to teach you something. You don't know what it's like to have been emotionally abused by that "loving" husband for ten years.
<Rant Off>

Who knows what my husband told Cookie about me. He certainly didn't tell her anything about "us". When we were just a few weeks into our marriage and I realized I had made the biggest mistake of my life, I begged him to go to marriage counseling. He told me, "We don't talk about things like that to strangers." Well, we didn't talk about it among ourselves either, so there you go. And there the marriage went after ten miserable years.

I enjoyed Ms. Briggs' writing. I especially appreciated how she bared her soul in writing this book. I wish she had spent a little more time dealing with how she coped with her new Weltanschauung once she broke away from the hyper-religionism. I felt that 90% of the book dealt with the religion, and very little with the aftermath. But it's her book. When I write my book, I can handle it the way I want.

I look forward to watching the movie, as I feel it will help/force me to look inside myself a little farther.

And digressing—my sister-in-law said something to me recently about praying for someone, and paused before saying it. Then she said, "I know you don't agree with that."

What I agree with or believe or condone has not one thing to do with what you agree with or believe or condone. I salute your right to believe whatever resonates with you. But, at the same time, I cling for dear life to my right to believe whatever resonates with me.

You can believe in foot washing or communion or saying the rosary or smoking peyote or staying in bed with your bedmate on Sunday morning. You can believe in anything you want. And you can know for a surety that I will not tell you you're wrong.

But in the same vein, you owe me the respect and courtesy to not.not.not try to get me to relinquish my beliefs in order to adopt yours.

You may think you have all the answers, but—I assure you—you don't. I don't. Nobody does.

You have your beliefs, and that's all they are. Your beliefs.

If we go someplace after this existence (the topic for another post), we may or may not find out there what the correct answer was. And then again, maybe there's no correct answer at all.

We'll see . . .

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Songs Well Sung

On October 6 and 9, the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus performed the Mozart Mass in C minor. Singing with this chorus is one of the great gifts Life has given me.

I thought I'd share with you some reviews we received.

 


The Cleveland Plain Dealer - Zachary Lewis

ClevelandClassical.com - Daniel Hathaway (I especially like Hathaway's "as solid as granite" simile.)

The Classical Music Connection: Concertonet.com

Superconductor: The blog of Paul Pelkonen

I hope I can hold up to the long and late weekly drives to Cleveland for a long time to come.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Please Tell Me I'm Not Insane

This morning I'm again driving to North Carolina. I'll stay about 36 hours, then turn around and head home. I don't want to go. I go because of [perceived] duty. I go because I try to treat my mother with respect. (I had to figure out on my own how to do that.) I go because I need to view myself as a good daughter. I go because it's the right thing to do.

Each time I set out on this drive, I think this may be the last time I [have to] make the drive. (Mother is 98 years and 160 days old. If you're counting.)

Family and beloved advisors ask why I do it. Maybe it's because I'm responsible. Maybe it's because I'm looking for approval and acceptance. More likely, it's because I'm trying to reinforce my attempts to view myself as responsible, approved of, and accepted.

I've been looking for approval and acceptance for about 61 years now. (And 138 days. If you're counting.) All I ever got, in my perception, was criticism and disapproval. The implicit message was "You're not good enough." I always expected to be given away again.

As Mother was preparing to go into surgery in mid-June, she said to me something about how happy they (she and Daddy) had been to get me. What a gift I was.

I heard the words. I didn't feel the meaning. I couldn't feel the meaning.

How can I analogize this deafness, this inability to feel? Is it similar to the medical student who has attended so many rock concerts that he needs an amplifier on his stethoscope to clearly hear the patient's heartbeat? Is it the person with the deviated septum to whom all food tastes bland? Is it an abused child who was locked in the blackened closet for so long that he lost his sight?

My experience tells me that one with whom the mother has not bonded does not develop the ability to bond.

I was told I was special, I was loved, but her words were far louder than her actions. There were no loving actions to believe in, therefore I never developed the ability to believe in her words.

And therefore, my ability to believe, to trust, to bond, is stunted. I continue to believe that I am forgettable. I continue to believe I'm not someone that others want to have around. It's a sickness. It's an awful, miserable, painful, heavy sickness.

A 61-year-old sickness.

If I had a platform, I would gather around me all adoptive parents on the day—about six months after they receive their "special delivery baby", about the time the thrill starts to be dulled by the enormity of the task—and tell them this:

Listen carefully to me. This child needs more love and attention and approval and acceptance than you ever imagine. More than your natural children need. More than you realized you had the ability to bestow.

You need to dig deep down into your gut and pull up everything that's there and form it into loving words and actions. To not form those loving words and actions and envelope your new child in them will forever alter who that child is. You need to go above and beyond each and every day until that child is an adult. Then you can relax.

Demonstrate that the child matters to you, is good enough to you, is acceptable just as she is, without change now. Now! Don't wait until you think you're on your deathbed and say, "I loved you so much I would stand by your crib and cry." That's not good enough.


I hate that writing this brings tears to my eyes. I hate that at the age of 61 years (and 138 days), these feelings still ricochet back and forth in my skull with the slightest provocation.

But, at least until the day she dies, it is what it is. To expect to feel acceptance and approval from her, especially at this point in her life, is insanity.

I accept the lack of acceptance.

And then I'll return home to love and acceptance and approval and joy and laughter.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Who's To Blame

Or: Why does anyone have to be blamed?


Yesterday morning, with the sun shining outside, I took my cup of tea and my iPhone into the library to catch up on my Words With Friends games. The library is my favorite room in my house, and I hadn't taken advantage of it in at least a month. I was sitting peacefully, cat at my feet, when the Jazzman walked in. He sat down next to me, bumped his shoulder up against mine, and said, "Happy Anniversary."

On November 6, 2010, he moved into my—now our—home. My life was changed for the better and for good. (See favorite "Wicked" lyrics below)

My sister-in-law likes the Jazzman a lot. When we saw my brothers and sister-in-law at Mother's last Christmas, my SIL said, "You'd better not screw this up."

Huh?

Oh, right. I'm to blame. I'm to blame for every poor choice, misstep, and - yes - divorce or breakup in my past life.

Forget the fact the #1 was emotionally abusive to me; or that #2 was clinically depressed and wouldn't speak to me for weeks at a time; or that #3's son threatened to shoot me; or that #5 was playing around behind my back and got married ten weeks after we broke up. They're all my fault. (I didn't mention #4. Cancer gets the blame for that one.)

And if the Jazzman ever decides to pursue a different life/style, according to my SIL's way of thinking, it will be because of something I did.

Good Deity, I hold a lot of power!!

Every time I think it would be fun for the Jazzman and me to vacation with my brother and SIL, I force myself to remember the outrageous things she has said to me, particularly over the past five years as Mother has begun deteriorating.

In case you didn't know or hadn't heard, there are two sides (or even more!) to every story. I was a party to each divorce and each major break-up, but there were other parties. A malicious mother-in-law, a seriously spoiled and narcissistic stepdaughter, and so on. I didn't ground those ocean liners all by myself.

And, judging by the past year, I won't be charged with keeping this ocean liner afloat all by myself. I lead a charmed life. I have a wonderful, caring, loving man who kisses me good-bye in the morning and hello in the evening. He fills my life with happiness, laughter, and friends.

May our life together be long and continue to be as happy as the past year has been.



I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Day

Before Mozart C minor Mass hell week and all its affiliated time-in-the-car, I was searching on Audible for a new book. I chose "One Day", by David Nicholls. I liked the idea of peeking into the lives of two people on the same day every year for twenty years.

I've been enjoying it immensely, and will see the movie as soon as it comes out on video next month.

There are so many good lines in this book. Nicholls is the kind of writer I like who turns out phrases that grab my ear. (I "read" most books in audio format.)

I think the movie wasn't such a big hit, but I highly recommend the book.

The two books that PianoLady recommended to me for our Ireland vacation didn't resonate with me. They were "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand", by Helen Simonson, and "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet", by Jamie Ford. I think both of these books might have lent themselves more to hardcopy reading than audio format.

I think I'll go back and explore Nicholls' two earlier novels, to see if this is always the way he writes. I hope so!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Old Friends

For the past umpty-seven years, PianoLady and I have been meeting in New York City for a Broadway weekend. (Want to read the accounts dating back to 2006?)

This year we decided to change things up a little. She has two sons in college; I have bills I'm trying to consolidate. It was time to hold our purses a little tighter.

Her across-the-street neighbor has become a dear friend. They discuss books together; they drink wine and watch chick flicks together; they take quarterly girls'-weekend-away trips. I had met Susan on our past two Broadway weekends, and could understand how she and PianoLady had become such close friends.

So when Susan asked, "Why don't you and Jan have a staycation at my house this year?", I willingly and eagerly signed on.

She has a lovely 30s home in Westchester County, filled with lovely works of art that she and her husbad have amassed in their travels. Her hand-crafted pottery is everywhere. The room I stayed in was filled with antique quilts. Get it? Yep, kindred spirits.

We spent the weekend watching old Meryl Streep movies, traveling to an outlet mall to find the best bargains, and just getting to know each other better.

Here's the thing about good friends—especially old friends. They validate you. They've known you on the hills and in the valleys. They've known you through elation and heartbreak.

When I say, "I wish I had done such-and-such differently", PianoLady (who has known me since January of 1969) can say, "Ah, yes, but then this (or that or the other thing) wouldn't have happened."

One comes home from such a visit saying, "My life has turned out the way it was supposed to."

And that's a good feeling.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's the Little Things That Count

The first "little thing" of the day was Angel. As I was waking up, he crawled up on my chest and went to sleep. He loves on his own terms, which is not what I like in a cat. However, his parsimonious love makes it all the more precious.

Last spring the Jazzman and I went somewhere; I was ill-equipped for the cool weather that blew in. He tossed me a black sweatshirt hoodie from the trunk of the car. I instantly fell in love with the garment, which I'm sure he bought a his favorite thrift store. I'd sneak it off his bedside chair when I thought he wasn't looking, and always return it from whence it came. Last night he pulled it from his closet and told me I could have it. I could have it!! Honestly, that's more precious than the black turtleneck cashmere sweater I've been wanting him to buy me (um, to replace the one he shrunk in the dryer a couple of months ago).

So this morning, with the temps hovering around 50 degrees and the sky filled with clouds, I put a silk tank, a cotton turtleneck, and MY new black hoodie on over a pair of comfy knit Eileen Fisher slacks. After pulling my socks on, I slipped my feet into the Jazzman's fleece-lined slippers, just waiting for me on his side of the bed.

Now, in my ever-chilly office, I'm toasty warm.

And very lucky.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Gloria!

Taking a moment out of a very busy day to share with you the review of last night's Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus performance of Mozart's Mass in C minor.

We in the chorus thought it was an incredible performance. I am honored to be a part of this organization!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Family of Choice

Boston was talking the other day about drawing a family tree. We joked that if he included all my husbands and step-children, he would need another nine pages.

Years ago (1983, to be exact), after finding my birthmother and having her ask me never to contact her again, I began researching my genealogy. The thrill of finding actual relations, even though only on paper, was unsurpassed in my lifetime of experiences.

Through some questions I had posted to a genealogical research site in the early 1990s, I found a distant cousin, who began corresponding with me. We had begun making plans to meet in the fall of 1993; in the summer of 1993 I received an email from his son telling me he had died. What a kick in the gut!

Three years later I received a handwritten letter from his younger brother, who lived in Wales. I don't remember if I ever answered the letter, as John had just received his diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer, and our lives were in utter chaos.

This week I was cleaning out a box and found the letter again. Hoping the power of the Internet would again be my friend, I began searching for this cousin, only to learn he was killed in a train accident a year ago. Double kick in the gut! (And how interesting, through further Internet searching, to learn that his middle name was Ridley, the same as my granddaughter's first name!) (And also interesting that all four of his children were adopted, and that he had written about and advocated for adoption and adoptees in his life!)

Earlier this week, one of the Jazzman's cousins added me to his list of family members on Facebook. I have not met a person who is related to the Jazzman (and I've met hundreds!) who has not been warm and welcoming and loving to me. He has an astonishing family!

That incident led me to post on Facebook that we should be able to list the members of our Family of Choice.

Who would mine be? Of course my sons would be there, but not their father or his followers-to-the-position. My daughter-in-law and grandchildren would be there. The Jazzman and his large family, and his circle of friends—who have been equally warm and welcoming and loving to me since we first met. Abigail and PianoLady would be on the list as my sisters. And others - dear friends whom I have met and retained relationships with over miles and years and life circumstances.

Aren't we lucky that we don't have to be confined to familial relationships with our family-of-blood or family-of-law?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Calming of Chaos

My work life the past five months has ranged from famine to feast. Let's face it—my personal life has been running at the speed of light also. I'm hoping work stays at feast, but feast can be hard to manage.

My boss recently got a new client that seems to be needing my help a lot. I am getting eight-to-ten emails a day from this client with changes that need to be made to their site. All the subject lines end with "ASAP". And you know me—I want to make that happen.

But I'm having a hard time keeping track of everything. Until, that is, a couple of days ago when I realized how Google calendar can help me.

I'm pretty bad about checking my calendar. I keep everything in my head and just start to work on whatever's at the top of my mental heap. But if you go into your Google calendar and click the little gear icon on the upper right - Settings - you'll find your new best friend. (You all use Google calendar, right? You should! It's genius!!)

Click Calendar Settings. On the next screen, under the "Calendar Settings" heading, click Calendar. After the name of your calendar, click Notifications. On the next screen, you're going to specify how you want to be notified. I want a daily agenda, and I want it to hit my inbox before I even wake up. So I click the email checkbox to the right of "Daily agenda".

Genius! Pure freaking genius!! The first thing I do when I wake up is reach for my phone and hit my email button. Right there, in living color, are the items I've got to do. I can let my brain relax from trying to remember everything all night long. I'm good to go.

Try it. You'll like love it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Me, as Activist

Oh, stop laughing! I am well aware that I'm probably the most non-confrontational person you've ever known. But Jo-Ann's has pushed me over the edge, and I'm fighting back the only way I can.

A while back I discovered the iPhone app for Jo-Ann's. I was thrilled. The app would present the Jo-Ann's coupons to me and let me choose which ones I wanted to use and save them to my phone. Then, when checking out at Jo-Ann's, I could just show the cashier the code, which would be entered into the register and I'd get the discount on my purchase.

<Rant On>
Let me just say that Jo-Ann's coupons are frequently useless or good only for a small amount. The coupons state that they cannot be used on sale merchandise, so Jo-Ann's keeps most everything on sale, even for just 50 cents off, so the coupons are no good. It's a crock, really! Why can't all retailers just set a reasonable price and quit spending money on all the stupid coupons?!
<Rant Off>

I'm on Jo-Ann's hardcopy mail list, and their stinking flyers arrive in my mailbox once or twice a week. I don't care about the flyer itself, I just want the coupon. And I was so thrilled to find the app so I could get off their stinking mail list. I never can remember to take the flyers with me, or I'll pop in on a whim and not have a coupon with me.

So the app meant I didn't have to worry about that.

A flyer arrived last week offering 40% off a purchase, and I needed a hem marker, which cost about $35.00. When I was near Jo-Ann's running errands, I ran in, grabbed the only hem marker that was on the shelf, and proceeded to check-out. I pulled up the app and looked at the coupons, and the 40%-off coupon wasn't there!!!

There was a coupon for $5 off a purchase over $25. I opened it, and the dates on it said it was good from (for example) 9/15/2010-9/15/2011. Yea, I could use it. So I clicked on the coupon to bring it to the page where the cashier could see the code, and the date on it said it was good from 9/15/2011-9/15/2011. Huh?! (The date was the day after I was in the store.) I showed the cashier that discrepancy, but she said the only date that mattered was the one displayed on the final screen.

So I sighed and grumbled and paid the full price for the notion and went home. The next day I found an excuse to be in that area again (about 12 miles away from my home), grabbed the 40%-off coupon, took the notion back, returned it, then rebought it with the coupon.

And made a major life-changing resolution. I'm never going into Jo-Ann's again. NEVER.

Here are the issues:
  • They have several sets of coupons;

  • they insist on killing lots of trees to send these flyers to my physical mailbox;

  • the crap they advertise in the flyers is of no interest to me, only the coupons;

  • they have paid to have an app created, which includes coupons and the ability to save the coupons;

  • they have the ability to include all coupons in the app, and refuse to do so.


I'm sick of their crap and I'm not going to stand for it any more.

The pattern companies and patternreview.com offer pattern sales that are better than Jo-Ann's coupons. I can shop on their sites and will have the pattern in three days or less.

I almost never buy fabric at Jo-Ann's anyway, as I prefer natural fabrics, and the only natural fabrics they offer are quilting cottons (that are, as a rule, of lower quality than the quilting cottons offered at Sew Much More, a mile down the street.

The primary reason I go to Jo-Ann's is for notions — zippers, thread, fasteners, and so on. But there are other suppliers. There's a dry cleaner's supply that offers zippers at ridiculously low prices. I can wait a few days, and pay $.32 for a zipper instead of $2.39. And Nancy's Notions has every other notion I could want, at competitive prices, and with selection bar none.

For years my sons and I talked about "delayed gratification" versus "instant gratification". Put off buying something that you don't really need today. It's all about planning ahead.

So if I know I have a project ahead, I simply need to plan a few days ahead, order my supplies from an online source, and to hell with the insane marketing practices of Jo-Ann's. I'm not going to play their silly game any more.

Now I will admit that my activistic decision flies in the face of my other resolution: buy local. When I can't buy local, I try to buy at the local bricks-and-mortar of a national chain. In this way, I'm supporting the job of a local worker.

But I feel I can no longer support Jo-Ann's or the local workers in their stores. Would I go back? Would their putting all available coupons on my app cause me to renege and shop at Jo-Ann's again? I don't know.

Probably, by the time they get around to wising up about the amount of money they're wasting on ink and paper, I'll be sewing in my columbarium chamber!

I rarely rant. I rarely speak out about things that really upset me, as I'm always afraid of hurting someone's feelings. But this time, Jo-Ann's has gone too far for me.

One less place I have to waste gas driving to.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Personal Rants and Raves vs Artistic Joy

I've been renovating my lesser-used blog today, getting it ready to become a project gallery. And I've started posting the travel photos from Ireland, if you're interested. Travel photos at "Exploring Art, One Project at a Time".

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Grand Irish Adventure

I'm going to attempt to "live blog" here, sorta. I'll try to post a daily update, and previous updates will be pushed farther down the page. There will only be one page, so you can bookmark this page and keep checking back.
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13 Sep 2011 5:20 p.m. - Home, Sweet Home

Yes, I am aware that we've been home for a week now and I haven't finished my account of the trip. Can I blame jet lag, and a theatre performance and a party at the lake and two rehearsals in Cleveland? Oh, and work. Oh, and post-vacation depression!

I'm trying to get the pictures organized and on a site where you can see them. That might even happen today. I've narrowed it down to 500 pictures and videos. Trust me, you don't have to look at all (or even any) of them.

I had planned to post from Dublin, but I refused to put money in the slot to use the computers.

We arrived in Dublin around 3:00 on Friday afternoon and checked into the Ballsbridge Inn. Then we drove the car back to Hertz and dropped it. There was no way we were going to try to drive in the mass chaos that was Dublin traffic.

We learned that there are four million residents of Ireland, and two million of them live in Dublin. Wow!

Once back at the hotel, we took a walk around the block to scope out restaurants. We discovered the U.S. Embassy was just down the block. And we saw people everywhere. Masses of people. And they were all wearing green or blue. It turns out the Euro 2010 qualifying game of the European football league (UEFA: Union of European Football Associations) was being held that night, a mere two blocks from our hotel. There were 44,761 in attendance, and 44,500 of those fans walked by our hotel. We walked in the other direction and found a pub in which to eat, drink, and watch football.

The next morning we walked to a restaurant a few blocks away, Expresso Bar Café, where we were able to get something other than a full Irish breakfast. (By the way, black pudding is like a sausage made with pig's blood. Get away from me!) Expresso Bar had been mentioned in my everpresent guidebook, and was well worth the mention. We also ate dinner there on Saturday night. After breakfast, we took a cab to Kilmainham Gaol (jail). I've never been a big student of history, but this jail was sobering and interesting. I will be looking for books about the Easter Rising of 1916 to try to fully understand what happened there. After the jail tour, we decided to take the hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Dublin. After driving through Phoenix Park and learning the president of Ireland the the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland live across the street from one 'nother, we hopped off the bus at Ryan's of Parkgate Street, a pub known for its Victorian style and open since 1886. After lunch, we got back on the bus and hopped off around Henry Street and O'Connell Street, the main shopping district on the north side of the River Liffey. The street was packed with shoppers on a Saturday afternoon. Just a sea of people!

After searching in vain for suitable gifts for friends back home, we made our way back to the hotel, then back to Expresso Bar for dinner.

On Sunday, we ate downstairs in the hotel, then caught the bus shuttle back to the hop-on-hop-off, and hopped right off at the Guinness Storehouse. Marketing geniuses that they are, the Guinness people have put together a very shiny bit of marketing, including a free pint at the 7th floor Gravity Bar.

As it was Sunday, St. Patrick's was open restricted hours (between services). We grabbed a cab in the rain to get there in time to savor its beauty before the next service began. I was thrilled to be able to hear the organist rehearsing. The cathedral was yet another soberingly beautiful historic site.

When we had to leave there, we were starving, so hopped back on the bus and got of, again, at Guinness, were we had lunch.

We were exhausted, and it was almost time for the weekend's second sporting event. This was the All Ireland final of hurling, a form of Irish football. The match was being held in a stadium on the north side of Dublin. The stadium held 85,000 spectators and the game was sold out!! Neighboring counties—and archrivals—Kilkenny and Tipperary had the fans in an uproar. As soon as we got back to the hotel, we settled into chairs in the Dubliner pub to watch the match on large high-def TVs.

And then dinner from the grocery store downstairs, packing, and sleep.

Monday morning we left the hotel at 7:30 to get to the airport on time, and it's a darned good thing. What we didn't know was that U.S.-bound passengers go through customs and passport control at the point of departure, not of arrival. That meant we went through security (but didn't have to take off our shoes), then stood in line to have our passports checked twice, then took our shoes off for everything except our bodies to be scanned again. By the time we got through all that, we sat for only about ten minutes before boarding the plane.

Long flight. Watched several movies. Sat for two hours in Newark. Drove home from Pittsburgh in the pouring rain.

Had a wonderful time. Wish you had been there with us!

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5 Sep 2011 3:07 p.m. - Newark Liberty International Airport

Let's see - where did I leave off?

As I said, Thursday was a day off. Jas had done all the driving and was exhausted. Shifting with the left hand, having to remember to stay left, and tiny little narrow country roads where one must vie with tour buses for real estate made him almost beg me for a day off. We went to the golf club for breakfast, then watched TV, napped and (me, not Jas) knitted all day. That evening we packed and readied tocheck out the next morning.

Friday morning we set out a little after 8:00, heading for Kilkenny. There were two things I had read about that I really wanted to see in Kilkenny, which was a two-hour drive away. The first challenge was a map that was older than the road. I was trying to avoid using my GPS on the iPhone, as I had already used 250M of data in the five days we had been in-country. (!!) I finally figured out what road to take, after we had passed beyond the points where I had expected to find exits. Midway down, we stopped in the cute little town of Abbeyleix for breakfast, then continued to Killenny.

The first thing I wanted to see was the Butler Museum in te basement of the castle. It was free and purported to have an excellent exhibition. #fail! It was very avant garde, contained about 10 items by one artist and was of almost zero interest to us. Then we walked across the street to the Kilkenny Design Craft Centre, which included a museum and artist's studios. I expected to see a wide variety of artists represented, and a wide variety of techniques and skills. I saw some slumped and fused glass that was unusual, and some pottery from colored clay that was unusual, but for the most part the displayed wares were upscale, glitzy, and pricey. I could have skipped Kilkenny entirely!

After a short walk in town and a pub stop for lunch, we headed out and drove an hour-and-a-half up to Dublin.

More after I get home and have a real keyboard.
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1 Sep 2011 3:30 p.m. - A real keyboard and real computer; seeing if I can get caught up.

Back to Sunday afternoon stop at Doolin. We ate lunch at Gus O'Connor's Pub, surrounded by people of all nationalities. There was some sporting event on the telly that involved a soccer-sized ball, a lot of running, and a few chest-bumps. As we were leaving, a woman said to me, "You're leaving now? You can't leave now!!" I had to confess to the woman that I didn't even know what sport we were watching. It turns out the game was the semifinals of the Gaelic football national championship, and everyone with any green in his or her blood was watching the game. We ceded our seats to other avid watcher, and walked down to the waterfront to watch some boats leave for the Aran Islands.

Then we continued north up the coast. After a while we wanted a break, and noticed a little house by the side of the road with a tea/coffee/scones sign out front. We walked in, and a young woman was sitting at the table with tea and a scone, talking to an older women (70s, probably) who was the proprietress, Bridie. She turned on the telly, and the young woman proceded to explain the game to us. Bridie said she had been in that location for "farty-three" years. She was just darling. My tea was brewed from a bag; Jas's coffee was instant! Quite a change from similar establishments in the U.S.!

We continued on up and over to Ballyvaughan, where we walked out on the pier and had a drink at Monk's, which is nationally and internationally renowned. Then we headed back to Bodyke, arriving back to the condo around 8:45.

Monday morning we opted for less driving, and just nosed around the shores of Lough Derg, the largest lake on the River Shannon. It seems that all these hills and valleys in western Ireland are full of artists of all mediums. We stopped first in Tuamgraney, the nearest little village, and stepped into the studios of McKernan Handweavers.

I petted all her scarves, and selected one from the sale bin that went with most of the clothing I had brought on this trip. Anke McKernan had few words to say to either of us. Jas and I just kept looking at each other, because she was so atypical of normal handcrafters we meet on such studio visits. After I made my purchase, she suggested we step into the workroom in back where we could see the looms at work.

Bingo! Her husband was monitoring the looms, and was a gem!!! We spoke at length with him. He explained the looms, answered my wool and yarn questions, and spoke about life in Ireland. We asked his name, and the delightful answer we got follows:

Well, it should have been Seamus. But when I was born in the Catholic hospital, Pope Pius XII had just died. All the nuns came around to all the women who had just given birth and said they had to name their sons Eugenio Maria. My father was at home, as fathers didn't go into the hospital in that time (1958). Imagine his surprise when my mother brought me home. His name was Seamus, and he was expecting little Seamus. He got little Eugenio Maria! So my name is Eugene, but my friends call me Gene.


Jas then offered his hand to shake and said, "I'm James. Seamus." Gene/Seamus said at the same time, "Seamus." Laughter.

Jas explained how his ancestors had come from County Tyrone, and they talked for a while about the troubles and how hard life in Tyrone would have been for Jas's ancestors. As we were leaving, Gene said to Jas, "Welcome home."

Wow! What a fabulous experience. Gene's cordiality made up for Anke's lack thereof.

From Tuamgraney, we went down along Lough Derg to Killaloe (pronounced KILL-a-loo), where we had lunch at Molly's, then took a boat ride on the Spirit of Killaloe on the River Shannon and into Lough Derg. After the boat ride, we drive counterclockwise around the lake to find the silk and felting studios of Astrid Tomrop-Hofmann, whose business name is Bombyx Mori. We just missed Astrid, but Jas had a wonderful talk with her husband while I admired all her exquisite felted garments and accessories. The husband told how they had lived in Germany, but it became politically untenable to them and the chose Ireland to which to flee. Amazing!

We headed back home to rest before dinner and concert in Tuamgraney.

I'll stop for today, and I may not be able to finish the update until we return, but you can bet we're having a blast.

Today we took the day off so Jas could rest from all the driving.
Tomorrow (Friday) we're going to Kilkenny, then will stay in Dublin the next three nights before flying out early Monday.

Thanks for reading!

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30 Aug 2011 8:45 a.m.
As we chatted with Kerry on Saturday, we decided we would go to the Cliffs of Moher on Sunday, as it would probably be the sunniest day of the week. We slept until 10:00, then headed west toward the coast of the Atlantic. To say the country roads are narrow would be a gross understatement. The driver must frequently pull as far left as possible and stop to let mini-vans or larger (i.e. panel vans or, aargh, trucks) pass. We drove through Ennis to Lahinch and the turned north to the Cliffs. Just north of Lahinch we passed a golf course that made us gasp - right along the coast, insanely hilly and rocky and dotted with sea grasses.

The cliffs are every bit as amazing and beautiful as you've ever read. I shot numerous pics that I'll upload to a photo service when we return.

Then we headed both along the coast, amazed at the rockiness of the soil and musing at hot difficult it would be for a landowner to clear the land. We also understand the rock walls zigging across the land when we see all the rocks everywhere.

Stopped at Doolin for lunch at Gus O'Somebody's pub and walked out along the rocks at the water's edge.

And now I must stop as we're heading to Galway and the Connemara today.
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29 Aug 2011 4:30 p.m.
At the Hertz counter, an agent with a great sense of humor processed our paperwork. Glancing over his shoulder, Jas noticed a Jaguar parked outside. He said to the agent, "Is that our Jaguar out there?". The agent replied, "No. your car is on the other side of that one. You can't see it." sure enough, when we got to the parking lot, we had a tiny vehicle - a red Fiat five-door hatchback. the fact that there were doors for the rear seat made missing the luggage into the car much easier than if it were a 2-door plus hatch.

Jas walked up to the car, key in hand, then turned to me and said, "there's no place to put the key." alas, he was on what-over here-is the passenger's side. We had a good laugh about that, loaded up, and headed out.

Within a mile, Jas had the driving under control. Two days later, I still haven't sat behind the wheel and have no desire to do so. He's doing a fabulous job.

I added international features to my iPhone so we would have GPS, and it's the smartest travel move I've ever made! We quickly and easily made the drive to cousin Kerry Hagan's house in Limerick for an afternoon visit.

Kerry is a delightful young woman (about the age of my boys) who is a musician and geek. We have quite a bit in common. I had met her at Christmas, and enjoyed getting to know her better. She has a doctorate from UCSD, is a composer, and focuses on new and electronic
music and teaches in the computer science department at the University of Limerick.

After fixing us some lunch, Kerry took us on a guided tour of Limerick. We saw King John's castle, the River Shannon, parks, and then took a stop in a pub for a pint. Delightful visit, then we set off to travel half an hour to our timeshare in East Clare.

I'm sure if I say "how beautiful" one more time, Jas is going to backhand me. Ireland-everywhere I look-is absolutely beautiful. It's a patchwork quilt of every shade of green you've ever seen.

Jas and I travel well together. There is no set itinerary. When driving, if there's a side road that looks interesting, we take it. We have had the most enjoyable trip.

To come: Sunday at the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Ballyvaughan, including tea with Bridie in her roadside home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Galway.
Monday around Lough Derg, including visits to McKernan Handweavers and the studio of Astrid Tomrop-Hofmann - BombyxMORI Felt & Silk Art, then a traditional Celtic music concert in a thousand-year-old church.
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29 Aug 2011 10:00 a.m.
Departed Ytown around noon on Friday for a 3:20 departure to Newark. Looked out the window on the plane an saw propellers. Propellers? In 2011?! We arrived early into Newark, so I guess they work!

Expected 7:30 departure from Newark to Shannon. Began boarding at 6:45. Sat down, settled in, pulled out my noise-canceling headphones. Tyler had returned these to me a couple of days earlier and I added more batteries and shoved them into my carry-on, without testing them. I turned them on, positioned them over my ears, and realized there was no cord to plug into the port on the seat arm! Oops!! Pulled out extra earbuds (yea for overpreparing) and made note to deduct some point from Ty's 'Good Son' account.

Finally everyone was aboard and strapped in when the attendant came on and said there was a mechanical issue and we would be 10 minutes longer. Ten minutes later he came in again and said 30 more minutes. Ten minute later, he said it would be an hour and we were getting off. Reload carry-ons, grab everything and get off.

Find a seat, plug iPhone unto charger again and take turns going for food, drink and bathroom break. And a "Bluetooth" store, where I was able to buy a cord for the headphones! Made note to add the $20 charge to the business reimbursements Tyler owes me. He can have his Good Son points back if he gives me the money!

Good meal, good music, decent sleep. Arrived in Shannon around 10:00 (instead of ETA of 7:00) after flying over acres of patchwork fields filled with all shades of green. Jas had purchased a bottle of Wild Turkey at duty free in Newark and accidentally left it on the plane. The Continental personnel took it to the ticket counter and they paged him!! I've never had THAT happen before!

Bags and whiskey in hand, we headed off to find the Hertz counter.

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Like a Madwoman!

The Cliffs of MoherI'm preparing for a little trip. (Sssh, I'm not supposed to talk about it online, as my guy is a little paranoid about someone reading my status and breaking into our house. Or something. Whatever. Just don't tell him I talked about our trip. Please?)

I've been sewing up a storm. New brown slacks from Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8712, which I've taken apart and resewn about four times to get them just right. The fabric is a fabulous lycra/cotton woven that feels like a knit. It came from Marcy's site. Then I started raiding my overabundant stash looking for T-shirts to go with the pants. I had purchased the Textile Studio Basic Top pattern about seven years ago and never sewn it. That's definitely my loss - this pattern is simply brilliant! I can sew it up almost faster than I can cut it out. I made it first in a hot pink midweight cotton/lycra knit, with jewel neck and cap sleeves. These sleeves are perfect, the jewel neck is not too tight, and the shirt fits like it was made for me. Oh, it was! Then I made the other view that's longer and closer-fitting out of a beautiful pale teal and brown graphic print rayon knit I picked up in Waechter's two trips-to-Asheville ago. I didn't have enough fabric to make the sleeves full-length, so just cut them off with as much fabric as I had. They're about 3/4 length, and the fit is fabulous!

Now you might remember that I told you about a pattern I was going to make for the wedding we attended a couple of weeks ago. I picked up a cotton jersey at Virginia Marti Fabrics in Cleveland for a first run of the dress so I could perfect the fit. If I liked the dress, I was going to get some silk jersey to make for the wedding. I HATED the dress! It made me look like I was seven months pregnant! Last week I picked up the almost complete dress and dumped it in the trash can. Then I got to feeling guilty, cut it apart, and made the third T-shirt from the Basic Top pattern. I cut the neck deeper and put a 1" self-binding around the neck and elbow-length sleeves (again, using all the fabric I have). The stretch on this knit was less than the rayon knit, so I gave it a scant 1/4" seam on the sides, and it's perfect.

I'm redoing the waist on the pants this morning (after repairing a couple of the Jazzman's pants for the trip) and then will cut out one more T from a rayon jersey graphic print in orange and brown that was given to me as a thank you gift about 8 years ago.

As much as I'm trying to destash, the quality and volume in my stash has been a gift to me in preparing for this trip.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I'm driving myself crazy! I can't sleep at night for reviewing all the things I need/want to do before I leave. I won't take a laptop, so I have to detail for my boss all the tasks that must be done between my departure and return. I have most of my clothes laid out, but must get them in the suitcase, after I determine whether I have a suitable suitcase to take! Have to call Hertz to check on international insurance. Have to call bank to tell them I'll be using credit cards in Europe. Have to run to vet to get more cat food. And so on.

Have to stop obsessively sewing so I can get everything done!!! And sleep at night!

When I return, I'm making changes in the blog. I'll tell you about my trip last weekend with my D.C. friend, Risa, to BeadFest Philadelphia. I found some real focus during that time, and think I know the direction I want to go next. I think those of you who know me well or have sewn with me in the past will start applauding when I make the big reveal.

In the meantime, you can read from the archive to keep yourselves amused, and you can drink an Irish whiskey (hint, hint) or something.

See you in a while . . .

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dreams DO Come True!

My babes are with me for the weekend while their parents relax with friends in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania. This morning I'm dawdling in bed, the Jazzman having left for work at 6:00, the birds chirping outside my window, the air cool with the promise of fall. I'm waiting for the babes to wake up, knowing the day to come will be a whirlwind of activity for this ol' grandma.

Last night I posted on Facebook a video of the babes telling their parents good-night. The parents are in a place with limited cell signals and limited wi-fi. But my experience is that Facebook is easy to hit, even when my e-mail is hard to hit. So I thought they might be able to see this video. As I posted it, I set the security settings so only the parents could see it.

This morning I googled "g'night to tyler and jaci" after logging out of Facebook, to check my security settings and ensure only they could see the video. The first thing that came up was a link to my blog from February 2008. I clicked it and sat reading what I went through in making this move. Fascinating! How fascinating to remember the whirlwind of social activity and the packing activities and the details of driving cross-country that I had forgotten. I clicked on a few inks within those posts and read other posts, until I ended up here.

Oh my gosh.

Two days ago the babes were over here sewing with me. We were talking about how to turn negatives into positives—how to look at the happy side of things rather than the sad side.

Why? The song "For Good" from Wicked came on the playlist, and Ridley burst into tears. I spent a Very Long Time talking her through being happy for having known friends who are gone, rather than being so unbearably sad that they're gone. We talked about my mother being near the end of her life, and how I'm lucky to have been adopted by someone who could pay for my piano lessons and have the time to take me to all those lessons. We talked about my former step-daughter who, when she arrived for a week's visit with her father, was instantly in tears because in seven days she'd have to return to her home across the ocean, rather than being happy and grateful for a week's visit with her father. We talked about J.R.'s death and how I feel so lucky to have had that almost-2.5 year marriage, even though he died.

Boston was saying how he wished he had known J.R., and I assured him that they would have liked each other very much. I told him how much fun J.R. was, and how everyone who knew him loved him. Boston asked if he was fun like the Jazzman. I said yes, that the Jazzman and J.R. were very much alike in that way.

Boston said, "I'm so glad you met [the Jazzman]." "I am, too," I told him. "I am, too!"

This morning, then, as I read this post, I was absolutely astonished to read my thoughts from March of 2008, and to realize that they came true just under two years later.

I truly hate dating at 57. I want a magic wand that can, poof!, bring the man who will understand my idiosyncrasies and pat me on the head when the Little Adoptee rears her ugly head; who can find my physical beauty despite my post-menopausal tummy; who will tolerate and appreciate and respect my devotion to my grandchildren; who will be willing to go to classical concerts with me, without complaining that he doesn't understand what the singers are singing. He can cook? He golfs? He has his own interests and doesn't want to be joined at the hip? Hallelujah! All the better. In my perfect world, the magic wand would deliver this man into my life and we'd both know instantly and could settle into a nurturing, supportive relationship without all the insecurities of teenage dating all over again.


If you're one of the Jazzman's friends reading this, or if you know me well enough to have heard me describe our life together, you'll know this describes him—and our relationship—in minute detail. After our second date, he told his mother and brother that he had met someone. We settled, with uncharacteristic mid-life ease, into a nurturing, supportive, and downright fun relationship.

I told Tyler after our first date, "I have just come home from the most comfortable first date of my life." I wake each morning glad to be alive. I watch him sleeping at night and think how much I love this man. He reaches for my hand as we walk through city parks or ballparks or restaurants, and I wonder how I came to be so lucky.

I am one lucky girl old broad!

I guess dreams actually can come true!

Friday, August 05, 2011

On having totally lost my mind.

It cannot possibly have been two-and-a-half weeks since the last time I posted on this site!

Let's see—there was a four-day incredibly stressful period in North Carolina, then a Saturday party to attend, then the Mt. Carmel Italian Festival, then a week of crazy shopping and sewing to get ready for a Saturday night wedding, then a Sunday baseball game, then a week filled with work. And through it all, the weather has been MIZ.ER.UH.BULL. Hot, humid, miserable.

I'll tell you about all that stuff another time. Right now I want to share that I have totally lost my mind.

Last Monday afternoon I met up with my boss down at the Lemon Grove to discuss a couple of projects. If you don't hang out in these parts, the Lemon Grove is an eclectic little café/restaurant/bar that's situated on West Federal in the heart of downtown Youngstown. It's the go-to place for air conditioning and free wi-fi, accompanied by a cup of whatever.

At the conclusion of our meeting, I walked out the front door and turned left to walk back to my car, parked a block away. And suddenly I heard a whacking sound. I couldn't imagine what was making such a whacking sound so, ever curious, I glanced around. Across the street I saw a 20-something or 30-something man in a white T-shirt and a black cap of some sort (were those really sequins?!). Nearby stood a younger-looking woman in a purple shirt. The man was holding what appeared to be a bullwhip, with which he was whacking away at the lush plants in one of the beautiful planters that line West Federal. (See the gorgeous planter on the left of the photo above? Those are the planters that have been installed on West Federal.)

I was instantly irate. So many people are working so hard to make and keep Youngstown beautiful. How dare he destroy public property like that. And, without a second thought, I started yelling at him. "Hey!" I used my loudest, most stage-projection voice. "What do you think you're doing?" "QUIT IT!!"

I had paused for a moment, and when I saw him glance across the street at me (and cease whipping the beautiful plant), I continued walking back toward my car. As I approached the side street, I started chiding myself. "Are you out of your ever-loving mind?" What was going to prevent this man for following me and using his bullwhip on me?

I scurried back to my car as quickly as possible, looking all around me, surreptitiously glancing over my shoulder to see if he was coming after me. He wasn't, and he had not resumed his whacking.

I quickly opened my car door, got in and relocked the door. Then I picked up my phone and started searching for the police non-emergency number—which was, by the way, not easy to find! I started driving down the street, toward where I last saw him, so I could sic the police on him. I saw him turn, cross West Federal, then begin walking north on the side street I had earlier crossed. He was followed at a short distance by the young woman.

I went to the next block, circled around that block to the south so I could come up the side street behind him. All the while, I was trying to watch for a police cruiser and trying to search for the phone number. I noticed him turn left and walk across the parking lot toward the DeYor Center. Now, as I watched him walk, it was clear—even to naive little me—that he was drunk or high out of his mind. He could hardly walk.

I pulled into the parking lot of the jail, turned around and drove back toward the DeYor. I pulled over to go onto the city's website to find the phone number. Once I had it, I dialed, as I pulled out and continued driving, turning to go past the DeYor Center and in front of the bus station, where he now was standing. The bullwhip turned out to be a belt, but still a device capable of whipping a poor unsuspecting plant, or my naive butt!

I finally got ahold of someone at the police department, told them what I had observed and where he was, and asked them to follow up.

Then I drove home. As I drove up Fifth Avenue, I kept just shaking my head. I've never done anything so outrageous in my entire life! What has come over me, in my old age, that I would burst out of my non-confrontational shell and yell at someone with the ability (and maybe the gun tucked in his back pocket) to do serious bodily harm to me?!

I don't think there's a moral to this story.

However, I did store the police non-emergency number in my contacts, for the next time I pop out of my shell and need to rat out some other drunk careening around West Federal!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Unspoken Thoughts

I sit in the gazebo of the nursing home with my 98yo mother and 15 other residents. Each has half of a swimming pool noodle. Teenagers from a nearby day camp are playing Noodle Ball with them, tossing balloons to them to bat back with their noodles.

Mother's mind is still in great shape. She beat me at Scrabble last night, and will probably do so again tonight As I rolled her out here, she said, "It's hard to believe I'm a resident here."

As she sits waiting for one of the teenagers to toss her the balloon, I wonder what she thinks of all this. How does life get to the point where one is trapped inside a body that doesn't work as it should?

Mother has never been one to share her thoughts and feelings. Anytime I have ever tried to tell her how I feel about anything in our shared life, her chin starts to quiver and tears fill her eyes.

Visiting her now is a challenge of filling the time. I tell her things about my life and the lives of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She smiles a smile of acknowledgement, but asks no questions and offers no observations. She tells me nothing about her day or her life in this (hopefully temporary) prison. But carry on a conversation? Nope. Not happening.

There are moments of interest in her eyes—the spark we occasionally saw when we and she were young. But now it's a life of biding time until (according to her understanding of the world), God says it's time to go.

In the meantime, Noodle Ball caught her interest for half an hour this morning.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Secret Vices

Okay, I like romance novels. So report me to the literature police. When I've got a nine-hour drive ahead (two-per-week every other week for the past six weeks or so), I want something that will capture my interest and keep my mind from wandering.

I was searching Audible.com before my last trip to find something suitable for the trip, and I happened across Sherryl Woods's "Chesapeake Shores" series. Having lived in the D.C. area for roughly a third of my life, I love the Chesapeake Bay and all the little inlets that define its shore. I read and enjoyed the first book—and it met my distraction goals—so downloaded the next, and the next, and so on. I'm now on the most recent one, and I'm annoyed at my addiction.

I must say that Ms. Woods has found a formula that works for her. But sometimes it's just a tad too formulaic.

I actually wrote to her a week ago and asked, wryly, "Do you know how many times you use the adjectives 'wry' and 'wryly'?" And I received a charming response from her. Not all authors would have done that.

Here's the thing about audiobooks, at least for me: I notice patterns in writing much more when I'm listening to the book than when I'm turning the physical pages. I don't know if that is caused by the way I read—I speak the text in my mind as I'm reading. My years of working as an editor have made this bad habit hard to break. But if an author uses the same phrase repeatedly, I'm going to notice. And at some point I'm going to get annoyed.

I don't believe I've ever noticed someone speak "wryly." What sort of statement would that encompass? And, upon reflection, I don't believe she uses other adjectives for speech in the same way she uses "wryly." All of her characters are wry. No one is exempt.

And I don't think I've read one of her books that did not include that phrase. Repeatedly.

The other phrase is "more's the pity." I have never heard anyone use that phrase. I've lived in the Florida, Wisconsin, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Arizona, and Ohio. I've known octogenarians and agrarians and vegetarians. No one uses "more's the pity." I had to google it to figure out what it meant, and I still don't think I get it. When I mentioned this annoyance to Ms. Woods, she said she hears it "all the time." So there you go. Writers write what they hear.

I do have to talk a moment about her characters. Never—in the pages and pages of books of all genres that I've read—have I read so many characters prone to jump to erroneous conclusions. And to hold grudges. And to make assumptions that will bite them in the ass. And to refuse to communicate. One of her main characters in the series is a psychoanalyst. Can't he just please get these people into his office and tell them to grow up?!

The greatest example of this conclusion-jumping was when a young woman appeared on the family's doorstep during Thanksgiving dinner. She handed a baby to the mother of the family and told her the baby's name was the same name as the father of the family. The mother immediately assumed her husband bedded the young woman and produced another child. And she was in a snit about it for an interminable number of pages.

Just talk! Ask the question. Get the answer. Don't run off in a huff based on an assumption!

Communication is vastly underrated!!

Okay, so even with all those complaints and negative-sounding comments, I have enjoyed these books. I'm less than two hours from finishing the last book. I will read all the rest of the books she releases in this series.

But now I'm about 36 hours from my next nine-hour drive to NC. I need something to make the time fly.

Guess I'll spend a little time on Audible tomorrow and see what else pops up.


And what are you reading?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Growth Spurts

Little Miss Long-Legs Ridley is growing about an inch a week. Yesterday I took the babes to the playground. When she was climbing up a metal structure she'd climbed on many times before (as a much shorter child), she whacked her skull on a metal bar and came crying to me.

She's eight years old, trapped in the body of a 15-year-old. It's a steep price to pay for what a long, cool drink of water she's going to be in her teens!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Driving on the Left

The Jazzman and I are planning a week-long vacation in Ireland. I've traveled in Europe quite a bit, but only once without the aid of an itinerary planned by a travel professional.

In 2002, I met my then-fiancé in Paris. We spent a day in Paris, a few days in Lyon, a few days in Geneva, a week roaming around Switzerland, two days in Germany on tour with my chorus from Washington, then a few more days in Paris — a total of three unstructured weeks. Traveling on Eurailpasses, we would just hit a city and decide what we wanted to see and where we wanted to eat each day. We found hotels as we were on our way into each city. I have lots of memories of that trip and the horrible heat that had settled over the region during that time, but also of the footloose nature of the trip.

This Ireland trip will only be eight or nine days. We're staying in a timeshare golf community (no, he's not schleppin' his sticks across the ocean!) in County Clare, about 45 minutes from Shannon airport. We'll fly into Shannon and return from Dublin.

I'm spending lots of time reading guidebooks and exploring travel websites, trying to determine which sights are must-sees, and which are can-misses. I've thought a lot about how to structure the trip so I don't inadvertently put pressure on both of us.

My thought is to have a list of all the wanna-see sights, including the duration of the drive or walk and the time required to travel to the location. Then each night when we arrive home from that day's travel, or in the morning when we rise, we can study the list and decide what we feel like doing that day.

I think this is a far better plan than my earlier thought to lay out a complete itinerary, a la Julie McCoy, so we'd have a feel of the whole trip before leaving the States. Now, upon thinking it through further (and not wanting to force the Jazzman to cede all control!), this menu of daytrips sounds like the best solution.

Now if I can just find and book airfare for under $2,500 for both of us! Damn the price of oil, anyway!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Melancholia - or not!

If "melancholy" means long-lasting sadness, what is the word for long-lasting happiness? Contentment? Bliss?

Whatever that word is, it describes my mood today. I was noticing the date was July 1, and wondering where on earth June went. Then I realized that since May 29, my mother's life has turned upside down in a most disastrous manner, and I've traveled to North Carolina three times.

But now I get a little respite. Tomorrow morning we'll be off to the lake cottage for a relaxation-filled week with our circle of friends. The DearGrandChildren will accompany us for the first two days, and their parents will join us on the 4th. Lots of eating; lots of golf (for the friends - knitting and reading for me!); lots of sun; lots of smiles and laughter.

Today I'm trying to finish up all my work for the coming week so I don't have to spend much time in the Madison Public Library accessing their wifi. I'm listening to an old favorite Sergio Mendes album - "Ye-Le-Me". The song "Look Who's Mine" came on. Whenever I hear it, it takes my breath away.

So as I'm winding things up, I'll share those lyrics with you:

Sleepy sun, it's time to rise and shine
Just take a look who's mine
See who's in love with me
Gentle wind, his smile will make your day
He'll take your breath away
And he's in love with me

Weeping willow, you can dry your tears now
When he passes by you wouldn't want to cry
You won't believe your eyes
What a sweet surprise

Oh, just look who's mine
Can you believe who's mine
That he's in love with me
He's in love with me

Listen sun,
I know you're leaving soon
Be sure to warn the moon
He's got a treat in store
In my arms are all my wildest dreams
And crazy as it seems
He's here in love with me

Oh look who's mine
Can you believe who's mine
Look who's mine
I can't believe he's mine
Look who's mine
Can you believe he's mine
Look who's mine
I can't believe he's mine


Hope you have a great week. You might read new posts here during the week, but don't count on it!



And if you want to hear the song, here's the Amazon link: "Look Who's Mine".

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Whew!

That was a fast trip! Left the house at 6:15 on Monday morning, indulged in a quick stop at Waechter's Fine Fabrics in Asheville, then arrived at Mother's bedside at 4:45. There had been some hiccups in her condition on Sunday and she was taken back to the hospital for tests. Alas, all the skilled and caring medical professionals working with and around her do not realize that her grimaces are only anticipated pain, not real pain!

When her dinnertime arrived, I left, as she always goes right to sleep immediately after dinner. I went to her apartment and spent the evening finishing a summer scarf I've been knitting.

Monday morning I went back to the nursing home and spent the day observing her and offering hints and tips to her care team. They are so kind; they ask her if she wants PT now or later. Of course she says later—she'd rather sleep! I requested that they not ask her. I don't want to listen to her complain when they don't come back for several hours! Then when they got her up and dressed, they asked if she needed to go to the bathroom. Don't ask! Treat her like the emotional three-year-old she's become, and put her on the toilet and tell her to try. Of course she had to go! She can hardly hear, despite the Very Expensive hearing aid. When she nods quickly after your statement, that means she understood. If she nods more slowly and smiles, that means she doesn't have a clue what you said. If you're telling her something important, ask her if she understood, then ask her to tell you what you said or what you want her to do.

I've heard my whole life about the elderly becoming like babies again—the cycle of life—but this is my first time observing it. I just keep remembering what Ridley was like three or four years ago, and treating Mother the same way. It works!

In physical therapy, they got her to stand three times and move the right leg. The rest of the day I kept encouraging her to exercise that right thigh muscle. She wants out of the rehab facility, so my brothers and sister-in-law and I keep reminding her that to move back to her apartment, or be able to go up to the mountain cottage, she's got to be able to walk again. They should be sufficient motivation!

While she ate lunch, I ran out to Wendy's where I could let the tension out of my shoulders and just sit quietly and eat my hamburger. Then I ran back over to her apartment and retrieved her Scrabble game.

That afternoon, she beat me at two games. I let her go first each time, and you'll never guess what her opening word on the first game was: "sex"! The old gal still has it.

As I was ready to leave for the day, my cousin, BJ, called and asked me to meet her for dinner. It was so nice to catch up with this remarkable woman whom I've known as long as I can remember. Then back to Mother's apartment to finish another project: the "Lizard Ridge Dishcloth". I wanted to learn the difficult pattern before I set out on an afghan in that pattern for our new couch. When I get the ends woven in this morning, I'll hand it to the Jazzman and see how he likes it for wiping down kitchen counters.

Wednesday morning as I was stepping into the shower at Mother's apartment, the fire alarm sounded, and I had to find my pajamas and robe again and walk down to the dining hall, where I stood for 15 minutes while being scrutinized by all the residents. Gee, that was fun! Then back to the apartment to get ready to leave.

I stopped by the nursing home again to visit Mother for a few minutes, let her talk to Jim on the phone, and again encourage her to exercise that right thigh muscle. Then I started driving.

I head up 26 from Asheville to get on I-81 around Bristol, VA. Every time I'm on the road, I eye the scenic lookout. I've stopped at the southbound lookout, but never at the northbound. So this time I stopped. The walk up to the lookout was 800 feet, with a 150 foot elevation climb. Good exercise in preparation for sitting behind the wheel all day. Gorgeous morning. Cool. Delicious smells in the air. The sound of cattle lowing or something to the east. (You can tell I'm a farm girl, huh?). Let me tell you, this is one gorgeous part of the world!

On the road again, I always stop in Johnson City, TN, at the Panera for a treat. Then I stop at Tamarack in WV to walk around the building filled with beautiful handcrafts. I fondled some handcrafted pottery mugs, but resisted temptation, Then I didn't resist temptation and ate peach cobbler from the fabulous Greenbrier chefs for lunch. Heading on up the road, I realized I would be rolling past Akron while my salon was still open, so called. My stylist agreed to stay a half-hour late for me, give me my summer cut, and save me a two-hour drive today!

After a little shopping and pampering in Akron, I got home around 9:30.

My state of mind? Exhaustion!!




When I arrived home, I heard classical music playing. I used to always leave the local NPR station on for the cats whenever I left home, but the Jazzman is religious about turning things off. I couldn't imagine that he had left a radio on.

I walked around the house trying to find the origin of the sound. Finally I stuck my head into the basement and realized that's where it was coming from. I walked down the stairs and realized there was music on in my sewing room. Last weekend an electrician came to give me some power sources so I could run my sewing machines without stretching a 25' extension cord across the basement. When I turned on the light for the sewing room, straight ahead of me was a hand-lettered sign, attached to the wall with blue painters' tape, that said, "Happy Birthday Jan. JH♥JC"

The Jazzman had bought five new light fixtures and installed them over my cutting table and the location for my sewing machine. For the first time in two years, I'll be able to see what I'm doing. I'll be able to see black thread on black fabric without holding it two inches from my eyes. It's a bleeping miracle!!

Say it with me now: Whattaguy!!!