Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day by Boring Day

A month ago today I fell. My first thought as I landed on the Stambaugh Auditorium backstage floor was that, hopefully, my wrist/arm/hand was just bruised and I would get myself off the floor and walk to the stage to start the Barber of Seville overture for our 45-minute presentation for the local elementary, middle, and high school children. I had spent the previous two months mastering this very difficult piano transcription. As I lay crumpled on the floor, more than 400 kids were finding their seats.

When I tried to lift my arm off the floor, I looked in horror as my left hand just dangled from the wrist. I knew instantly that I was in big trouble.

My earlier post about the accident gives all the details of that first day.

My fall occurred on Friday, Nov. 30. On Wednesday, Dec. 5 (my older son's birthday), I was Dr. J. J. Stefancin's first appointment of the day.

The nurse showed me the x-ray sent over by Northside Hospital ER. (See photo above) She pointed to the right side of the radius, where the break occurred, and I could see the bulge of pulverized bone. She told me Dr. Stefancin would have to manually compress the bone back into place before casting my wrist. She assured me he would deaden my wrist before applying this pressure. Then I explained to her that I had started playing piano at age 3½ and wanted to be able to continue when the cast was off. She quickly excused herself and I waited for the doctor to appear. (I learned later that she had gone to alert the doctor to my musical abilities. He would quickly determine that compression and casting would not be my answer!)

In a few minutes the nurse returned with the doctor and the intern. Dr. Stefancin looked long and hard at the x-ray, asked me a few questions, then said I would need surgery. He used his pen as a straight line to illustrate what the wrist joint should look like as compared to what my fall had caused mine to look like. Because of how the bone had disintegrated at the break point, a plate would have to be attached to the bone to give me normal function again. His staff quickly got on the phone and scheduled me into the Surgical Hospital at Southwoods. The scheduler snuck one more appointment into Friday afternoon and I was set to go.

I would get a plate similar to the picture to the right. The four screws at the top secure it at the wrist, then several screws down the shank attach it to the radius. Now all that was left for me to do was to attempt to stay calm until Friday, two days away.

The Jazzman arranged to have the day off to take me to the hospital and keep me from freaking out. To say I was impressed with this facility and every member of the staff with whom I interacted is a gross understatement.

The intake nurse, a compassionate man named David, was excellent at calming me. He shared stories with me about his teenaged son who plays trumpet, piano and guitar. Before inserting the IV needle into the back of my right hand, he asked my permission, telling me about the patient he once had who was a massage therapist and begged for the needle to go anywhere but in her hands. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Gemma, came in and, learning I sing with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, promised not to put the breathing tube down past my vocal chords. Further, given the risks of nerve damage in an "arm block" or "nerve block" and my desire to have the same abilities I had before my fall, he agreed that general anesthesia was the best solution. Dr. Stefancin came in briefly to reassure me that he had my best interests at heart. And in a few minutes I was being wheeled into surgery. The last thing I saw before sliding into my drug-induced sleep was our dear friend Diane, who is a surgical nurse at Southwoods and had arranged to be assigned to my case. Seeing her face gave me utter peace of mind.

A couple of hours later I was awakened from a very involved dream to see that I was the only patient remaining in recovery. I was freezing and shaking. The nurse brought me a magical blanket into which hot air was circulating—I want one of those! To get over the shakes, the nurses kept reminding me to take deep breaths from the oxygen tube in my nose. And an hour later we were leaving the hospital.

Lots of Vicodin accompanied my next several days. Ten days later, on Dec. 19, I went to Dr. Stefancin's office and saw this lovely and colorful arm.

And now I just wait. I'm in a brace. I alternate between pain, annoyance, and fear. Everyone who has been through a similar injury tells me that—after the pain and toil of physical therapy—I'll be playing my daddy's favorite "Alley Cat" again. And all our friends call and text and email and contact me on Facebook to let me know of their concern.

And my mantra is, "It could have been so much worse!"

All in all, I'm pretty lucky.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Crash! Boom! Ouch! Damn!!!

In a story of "Timing is everything," Friday was a very bad day.

NOTE: This post is typed entirely with my right hand. You can see where this is going, can't you?

One of my jobs is accompanist (collaborative keyboard artist) for Opera Western Reserve's (OWR) Young Artists Program. Along with two-to-four opera singers who are either finishing college or just beginning their musical careers, I go into local elementary, middle, and high schools to present a "Fun With Opera" educational program.

<PROLOGUE>

We give a little history of the genre and teach the kids various elements—voice parts and ranges, languages used, what all goes into staging an opera (singers, orchestra, conductor, set designer, costume designer and seamstresses, lighting designer, etc.). We try to make it as interactive as possible. Each of the artists sings two aria snippets, and the students choose their favorite.

At the end of the program, the artists perform a brief "opera" they've "composed" with the students' input. (We're at a bus stop. Who are we and why are we here? How do we feel about being here?) The suggestions from the kids are frequently hilarious. And sometimes sobering. For example, you're a mom going to school to pick up your sick kid. Or you're out of work and you're on your way to a job interview. Or you're on your way to work in a doctor's office and you hate your job. I hear months from teachers that the kids love our visits and fondly remember these improvised operas.

The other function of the Young Artists Program is to stage an abbreviated version of the opera that will be presented by OWR. We begin several months before the scheduled performance date. I sit down with the production director, David Vosburgh, who determines which arias and recitatives are required to tell the story, and what is merely fluff or repetition the can be omitted. The score is condensed to about 40 minutes. A director is named, roles are assigned, and singers begin learning and memorizing their music. (It's important to note that many of these singers also have different roles in the main stage performance&emdash;double the work! The school performance takes place at 10:00 a.m. on the same day that the full performance will occur at 7:30 p.m.

<THE STORY>

Over two months ago, I received the music for this performance. Simultaneously, I was learning the accompaniment and rehearsing for a cabaret evening of obscure Broadway tunes to be performed by a Cleveland Orchestra Chorus (COC) colleague of mine, and learning the alto part of all the COC Christmas music. The past two months have been absolutely overwhelming for me, and when my alarm rang at 6:00 on Friday morning, I turned it off with a distinct sense of relief. In six hours I would be done with "The Barber of Seville" and—after a celebratory lunch—could just focus on holiday music.

The cast met backstage at Stambaugh Auditorium at 7:45. We quickly ran the finale, then at 8:15 began a full run-thru, noting the points where we'd have to pay special attention during performance. At 9:25 we were told there were hundreds of kids outside who wanted to be let in. We cleared the stage and reassembled backstage to finish talking through any trouble spots, check hair and makeup, and prepare to go on and wow the kids.

I had only been backstage in this hall once before, so had to ask one of the girls directions to the Ladies Room. I walked in, answered Nature's call, washed my hands, and opened the door to step out into the hallway. I didn't remember that I had successfully negotiated a very tall step to get into the restroom, so stepped out as if the hall floor was at the same level as the restroom. I quickly realized there was a problem.

I started doing the "Please Help Me, I'm Fallin'" two-step. I thought I had recovered my balance, but then felt myself falling toward the wall and put out my left hand to catch myself. The next thing I knew I was on the floor. My first thought was a hope my left hand/arm was only bruised so I could play the show. Then I reached over with my right hand and lifted my left arm, only to watch my hand droop. Trouble. I was in real trouble!

I called out to the cast who had no idea what had happened. Somehow they helped me get to my feet. They radioed someone in front of house to come help me. Someone retrieved my phone. Fortunately for me, my daughter-in-law was home a half-mile away and, at my phone call, hopped in the van to get me and take me to Northside hospital a mile away.

Northside ER personnel were wonderful to me, getting me into a room quickly and getting me pain meds. (I had no idea a broken bone could hurt. OMG, the pain!) They even put me right back into the same room where I was on Tuesday for my bronchitis diagnosis. How thoughtful.

Two hours later I was diagnosed and splinted and had instructions for seeing a doctor on Monday. The PA, who had also treated me on Tuesday,

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In One Door and Out Another

I watched out the kitchen window this afternoon as my neighbor filled her bird feeder. She's retiring in about four weeks, and each time we chat I witness the glee in her eyes.

She has dotted all her Is and crossed her Ts. She has prepared for this retirement. She has acted wisely at every turn. She's ready, willing, and able.

I, on the other hand, have fallen into retirement. My retirement could also be called underemployment, or even unemployment. I made no plans. I had no scheme. Preparation - what's that?!

But then, if I look back to the beginning of my so-called career, I had no plan or scheme there, either. I bounced from college to college and job to job. I got married at age 21 (!) to someone I didn't much like because he said God wanted him to marry me, and because I just didn't know what else to do. Bad [un]plan.

I worked a while as a secretary, then stayed home with my babies, taking occasional part-time piano jobs and keeping books for my daddy's medical practice.

There was no roadmap. There was no order to my life.

When I divorced, I began hoeing three rows at a time, as my rural Tennessee-born ex-mother-in-law would have said. I worked full-time as a programmer at IBM, went to school at night, and frequently played piano in local hotel lounges on weekends. Sometimes I wonder if I can't find a job now because there's a quota on the number of jobs one can hold during life, and I passed that number years ago.

At the end of my career, I left a good salary in a hostile work environment to work on a freelance basis for my son. Then the work I was doing for him decreased, and kept decreasing. In a manner as disordered as that in which I entered the workforce, I was slowly leaving the workforce. Month by month, hour by hour.

Now that I've tasted some form of retirement, I'm not very motivated to leave it by finding full-time employment. The luxury of not setting an alarm, of not considering what office-acceptable attire I'm going to don each day, of not worrying about ticking off some colleague .... It's just that—it's pure luxury.

So I don't get to have a retirement party. So I don't get an engraved Rolex or a pen set for my desk. I can buy my own damned watch. I can throw my own damned party.

We have a friend who retired several years ago. She liked her retirement party so much that she invites all her friends to meet her for dinner every Tuesday night. She calls it "Retirement Dinner."

Monday, November 05, 2012

What I *Did* Like!

After writing yesterday's blog post, I realized it could be perceived as negative. At various times throughout my life, I've been accused of speaking negatively when I thought I was just laying out the facts. So, to let you know that Saturday night was a positive—not negative—experience, here's my take on what I loved.

Matt introduced me to a lot of new repertoire, and some new takes on old repertoire. Now, you already know (from various accounts of weekends PianoLady and I have shared in NYC attending Broadway shows) that I'm a big Broadway fan, and particularly musical theatre. So to learn new tunes—what a treat!

Several years ago PianoLady and I saw "The Light in the Piazza," with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel. Falling in love with the music, I started googling and learned that Adam Guettel is an alum of Interlochen Center for the Arts (as is my younger son) and that his grandfather was Richard Rodgers. When Matt handed me the music for "How Glory Goes" and said it was from the musical "Floyd Collins," I didn't realize that Adam Guettel was the composer and lyricist. Unlike some of the music I've been learning lately where the harmonies are complex but make no sense, the voicing Guettel used on Glory is so well thought out, so musical ... I fell more in love with the work each time I sat to rehearse. As Matt performed it, I felt he loved the piece as much as I did.

Another new tune to me was "Tell My Father" from the 1999 musical "The Civil War." The composer is Frank Wildhorn. I was familiar with neither the musical nor the piece. Matt performed it with a slightly country music feel, very balladic, and I loved it.

Another Wildhorn tune that was new to me was "This is the Moment," from "Jekyll and Hyde." This tune, this arrangement, allowed me to deviate from the printed music and just be myself on the keys. Matt chose a truly beautiful piece with which to end his evening of music.

And finishing on the theme of "What I Loved" is "Everybody Says Don't" from "Anyone Can Whistle," composed by Stephen Sondheim. I've known the tune for a long time, but Matt made it even more appealing to me by pairing it with "Don't Rain on My Parade," which is from my all-time favorite movie ever—"Funny Girl."

As a preteen and teen, I would come home from school and sit in the afternoons working picture puzzles on the coffee table in the living room, playing recordings from musical theatre that my daddy had gotten for me. I wore out the groove in so many records. Oklahoma, Funny Girl, the Reader's Digest collection of Gilbert & Sullivan. I sang at the top of my lungs. I finally saw the movie "Funny Girl" when I was in college. Love.love.love that music.

Matt's brilliant melding of those two songs delighted me. When we rehearsed and performed the two, I couldn't stop smiling. What a blast!!

So, you see, despite dropping some notes on the floor, I pushed plenty of notes into the piano keyboard. And I had a truly wonderful time.

I'm not all negative!!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Black Dots

Last night I accompanied a COC friend, Matt Rizer, in a performance of mostly obscure Broadway tunes. We had been preparing for about two months to give this recital.

Some of the pieces he chose were just a joy to play—they seemed to roll off my fingers through the keys to present utter beauty. Some were far more challenging, either in just not resonating within me, or in having just too many black dots on the page.

My favorite type of accompaniment is for a singer who grabs a tune and flies with it, secure in herself and knowing that—wherever she goes and whatever she does with the tune—I'm right there underneath her, making her flights of fantasy possible. (I've had great experiences that fit this definition with my dear friends LaVerne Davis Lawrence in Tucson and Judy Sokol, an ex-Washingtonian now living in Sarasota.)

Last night's repertoire, in contrast, had a number of song versions that, due to their complex arrangements, were designed to be played note for note.

Think for a moment about the nature of accompanying. The pianist is focusing on the notes printed on the pages, but also on moving those notes to the keys without error; on never overpowering the soloist (or performers); on splitting sight between the keys, the music, and the soloist; on dealing with lighting (is there enough light to see, are there lights flickering that disrupt my vision); on tempo and volume and being on the right page; and on staying focused despite a hundred variables in the environment.

Two pieces were problematic for me last night. The first was "Putting It Together," from "Sunday in the Park With George," which opened the second half. The lyrics involve the million facets of bringing a piece of art—whether song or sculpture—from idea to fruition, to being seen or heard by the public. It's a "patter" song: lots of words, lots of repetition. There is not much variation from verse to verse, i.e., it's easy for either the singer or the accompanist to get lost. And it moves lickety-split. The speed of light. No room for error.

We rehearsed and rehearsed this piece. [At Matt's brilliant suggestion,] I copied and cut-and-pasted the music so there would be no page back-turns for repeats. It was just 20-or-so pages, one after the other. We had agreed that if either of us got lost, we'd just pick it up and keep going.

And I got lost. Even with a page-turner who had his eyes glued to the music to keep me on track, I got lost. And we just stopped. Matt looked over at me and I just laughed out loud at the impossibility of it all. In front of the audience, I just laughed. Really, what else could I do? He turned back to his "teleprompter," grabbed a lyric, and took off again. Then on the last page, we somehow got separated again. A phrase that was to be duplicated in the voice and the accompaniment somehow got played by me and then sung a Capella by him. Oops. But we started and finished together. Does that count?

[When I laughed (really, how unprofessional can one pianist be?!), all I could think of was the fact that Matt was recording the performance and I had just seriously messed up the recording.]

The second problem child was "You'll Never Walk Alone." Matt had chosen the Streisand version, which includes a number of key changes throughout. Umm, some of these new keys have no reference point to the previous key. I've been playing this song in various versions since I was about 10 years old. I would have loved to have just taken off and done my own underlayment, but with this awkward arrangement (which on the recording has a number of back-up singers and an entire orchestra) I needed to stick to the ink on the page. I flubbed a few notes on each of the key changes, but Matt kept his pitch, kept going, and we finished together. Bravo to him!

Now here's the question for the ages: Let's say I played 10,000 notes perfectly, 1,000 notes acceptably, and 100 notes poorly or not at all. Why, for days afterward, will I only remember the 100 notes?!

Matt had already chosen most of his repertoire before asking me to accompany him (without ever having heard me play, I might add — without knowing I have a gift for accompaniment). Now that he knows what I can do, maybe next time he'll be able to choose tunes he loves rather than arrangements he loves, and enable us to just create something wonderful between us.

[I am not saying there was not a whole lotta wonderful going on last night. There absolutely was. But I felt somewhat constrained by all that ink. I would rather have followed the neurons than the dots.]

The grace of last night was that the room was filled with friends. We were on the floor of a lovely church hall, rather than on a stage. I could laugh out loud when I messed up, partially because over half of the audience members were also musicians and had dropped their own black dots from the music to the floor at various times.

We set a goal. We worked our vocal chords and our fingers and our brains. We achieved our goal—quite beautifully, if I may say so myself.

We started together. We ended together.

And my musical life goes on. In five hours, I've got to be back on stage again, performing a whole 'nother set of black dots for five talented young opera singers.

Here's hoping I won't (very unprofessionally) laugh out loud. Or need to.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Joy of Making Music

I posted this on Facebook today, and want to share it with those of you who read my words here but are not on Facebook.

I'm exhausted from the stress of concert week, but I'm incredibly lucky.
If you wonder what 120 of my musical colleagues and I do in the evenings during Cleveland Orchestra concert weeks, we drive many miles and many minutes every night of the week to Severance Hall in Cleveland's University Circle, warm up our voices, then process and sit on stage behind the Cleveland Orchestra while we wait patiently for our turn to make music. For me it's 140 miles and over 3 hours total, just for the commute. We are at the hall from 2-4 hours, depending on the concert. There are those who drive further and longer than I. We receive no salary nor reimbursement for our expenses. The IRS lets us deduct 14 cents per mile for our auto expense. We spend over $200 a week for gas. It's a lot of money and a lot of time away from our families. Why do we do it? For the incredible experience of making music with the Cleveland Orchestra and with each other. We are truly lucky.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Work to Live; Live to Travel

I have a really good guy with whom every breath of every day is fun. I just found this photo that one of our traveling friends took of us on the Italian Riviera in May of this year. And now we're talking about the next big vacation.

How does a river cruise in 2013 through Paris and other European capitals sound?

Sounds pretty darned good to me.

Proving Oneself

The normal musician chooses a place for his or her career, puts down roots, makes contacts, and gets jobs. After the first job, if she is good, the future jobs just follow along like baby geese.

The abnormal musician (waving hand in air) follows the men in her life around the country. Each time she gets to a new location, she starts all over again to establish her credibility as a first-rate accompanist and lounge pianist. She must go out to suitable venues, find pianists whose work she identifies with, introduce herself and offer to sub for them when they want a night off, and be willing to drop everything at a moment's notice when the regular pianist is sick. She's got to be willing to work two and three jobs at a time, meet some sleezy characters, and—hopefully have fun bringing enjoyment to people sitting in bars or theatres.

In Orlando it began with someone in the entertainment division at Walt Disney World calling my university music department and asking for the name of the best pianist they had. They were given my name, and for seven years I served as Staff Accompanist.

First Husband and I moved to Sarasota and I served as church pianist, meeting several people who knew people in the entertainment community. I played for local musical theatre productions and for voice lessons at the community college. Then we moved to Ft. Worth and I started playing for ballet classes at TCU. When my husband and I divorced, I started playing at Tavern of the Fierce Sparrow at the Hilton on Mockingbird in Dallas, and experienced being handed a room key for the first time!

Second Husband (followed by 2nd divorce and Third Husband and ...) happened along and I moved to the D.C. suburbs. Over the next 16 years I played in hotel lounges and at private parties. When Nordstrom came to town, I introduced myself to the piano manager at the Pentagon City store and began nine enjoyable years of "making beautiful music to shop by."

With the move to Tucson following my husband's death and my meeting the next Significant Other, I started all over again. I started volunteering to play for an Alzheimer's Support Group at St. Phillip's in the Hills. Slowly I met more and more people. I began working in administration for the symphony and met people there who had contacts. Talking to a woman who was reading sheet music in my Starbucks led to my accompanying the CYT organization and meeting some wonderful and talented people. From that I had the honor of working with the megatalented Robert Encila on a showcase at St. Francis in the Foothills. And then I moved again.

With this move, I've had the hardest time re-establishing myself. I met people through Easy Street Productions when I helped my son with some projects there. I introduced myself to a well-known and well-connected pianist, who threw some gigs my way. My name was given to the production director of Opera Western Reserve and I began accompanying their Young Artists program. And then somehow a man in the chorus heard me say something about being an accompanist and asked—without ever hearing me play—if I'd accompany him on an upcoming cabaret night. What a leap of faith!

We had our first rehearsal Saturday afternoon for a show that will take place on November 3 at First Baptist Church on Fairmount in Cleveland.

I feel like I need to keep thanking him for taking a chance on me. How good it feels to be collaborating again and making lovely music with skilled and talented musicians!

Here's to never having to re-establish myself again!

(The photo? Nordstrom Pentagon City, Christmas season, 1990 or 1991. Each year Nordstrom would have a holiday preview night, with glitz and glamor. Great fun. Beautiful holiday music to shop by!)

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Ins and Outs of Cleaning

Over the past few days I've been trying to declutter and clean my sewing room, yet again. I took DGS to a lampwork beadmaking class last weekend, and now I'm trying to set up a glass and torch station for us in the sewing room. But there's so much stuff in there!

There are fabrics collected over years of travel and oh-isn't-that-pretty-I-could-use-that-someday. There are three sewing machines. There are materials for beading and cross-stitching and knitting and felting and dyeing and ...

You get the idea!

This morning, while devoting another hour to cleaning out that area, I found a card describing a handcrafted pottery bowl I bought in a Sedona gallery about nine years ago. The bowl is sitting on my antique breakfront in the front hall. Why is the descriptive card in my sewing room? Because I don't know what to do with it.

That, my friends, is one of my biggest problems. When I come across something that I don't know what to do with—where to put—I leave it where I found it. Each time I'm cleaning or organizing that room, I find the item again. I pick it up, look at it, wonder what to do with it, and put it down. Pretty soon I don't see it any more.

When the Jazzman first moved in with me, he laughed at the places I put things. A plastic storage box of picture-hanging equipment was on the shelf in the coat closet off the front hall. Why? Because the last time I hung a picture, it was in that hall. And because I know the box is there.

Light bulbs? They're in the upstairs hall, in the small storage space behind the door that leads to the attic. At least they were. The last time I went looking there for a lightbulb, the Jazzman told me they were now in the tool room in the basement. Along with the picture-hanging equipment and all the tools and the step stool. Along with everything an organized handyman would need to fix any problem in a big old early-20th Century house.

Of course. Because he's organized.

Me? I'm just befuddled!

When I try to clean house, I get waylaid by every little this or that which should be put away someplace, if I could only figure out where.

Can you understand why I love my Molly Maids so much? They come every other Friday, and nothing befuddles them. They move through my house like machines, and I'm left with order and fresh smells.

Now that's love!

(The card describing the fabulous handcrafted bowl? It's now in the top drawer of the breakfront on which the bowl rests. Isn't that a step in the right direction?)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Yahoo Groups Migration to Google Groups

This post will be of no use to most regular readers, but it will be useful to those who are Googling, trying to figure out why their clients can't log in to a Google Group.

I just migrated the Design Outside the Lines workshop forum from Yahoo Groups to Google Groups. I had a number of problems, which I want to document for others to use.

Leaving Yahoo: Export your memberlist, pull it into a spreadsheet, separate out the address only, and place in a Word file. Replace the hard returns with commas, then separate into groups of ten. Google restricts you to adding or inviting 10 people at a time.

Importing to Google: When I was first adding, after I finished my 8th group of 10, the system locked me out, saying I had reached my maximum number of invites and to try again later. I waited 10, 20 minutes to no avail. As all the members of this group were selectively added to Yahoo in the first place, I felt I could direct-add them with no problem.

I switched to the Add New Members link and added another 60 or so before being locked out again.

Much, much Googling and reading later, I figured out I could add the rest with another ID. Fortunately, I have three Gmail IDs, one of which had been added to the list earlier. (Note to readers: make sure you have more than one way to get into the list!) I made my second ID a co-owner of the group, then opened another browser and logged in with the second ID. (I have not found a way to log in with two different IDs in different tabs of the same browser. Best to use a second browser.)

I was then able to direct-add another 60 or so before being locked out. I switched to Invite New Members and was able to add the rest of my 310 users.

Now the fun began! My inbox exploded with emails from users who clicked the link in the invitation email, then couldn't get in again.

If your users have Gmail addresses or are already using a Google app, such a Blogger, Groups, or Calendar, and have registered their non-Gmail address with Google, they should be able to sign in with no problem.

The snafus began with members who had non-Gmail addresses that were not recognized by Google. Here's the list I made for these users:

If you have a Gmail account:
You should be fine. Gmail and Google Groups are both Google applications, so Google already knows who you are and will let you right in. Go ahead and click the link when you receive the email.

If you do not have a Gmail account but use other Google apps, such as Calendar, Docs, (maybe Blogger - not sure about that):
Again, you should be fine. Go ahead and click the link. If at any time Google tells you you're not a member of the list or do not have access, please email me offlist at xxx and I'll work with you to resolve the problem.

If you do not have a Gmail account and do not use other Google apps:
First, register your email address with Google at https://accounts.google.com/NewAccount
If it tells you that you're already registered, go to https://accounts.google.com/Login. If you don't remember registering and don't have a standard password that you use for everything (Smart Girl!), you can tell it you can't access your account and go through the password reset process.
Once you have a password and Google knows your address and recognizes you, then click the link on the GThreads invitation and go into the group.

I had one member who only had one email address. She had registered it previously with Google, but couldn't remember the password. Google wanted to text her the recovery code, but her phone doesn't text. I walked her through the "Verify my identity" process with Google, but it requires a second email to which to send the recovery code. She chose not to jump through Google's hoops to set a new password. Because she was a direct-add to the group, she was receiving the emails. I edited her account and changed her to digest. She's content with reading the posts and not contributing to the discussions.

Another user said her computer was so old that she couldn't access the group. She also will just read the digested posts and not contribute until such time as she upgrades her equipment.

For several users, simply deleting and re-adding/re-inviting them solved their problems.

So given all these hardships, would I recommend the migration again? Absolutely! The owners and moderators of the group were unhappy with Yahoo's user-unfriendliness for several years. There seems to be a general happiness among the members with the new formats (despite the difficulties in getting in).

My strongest advice to moderators who are performing this migration: patience. Be patient. Remember when you were first learning about computers? Be as gentle as you can with your users who are having difficulties, then pour yourself a large adult beverage at the end of the day!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Joined at the Heart

My son left town last night. I'm filled with sadness.

That statement makes me sound like some sort of Sarah Braverman, angsted out over every situation that involves her children. But, truly, this is different.

The root of most everything in my life is my adoption: The physical rejection by my birth mother, the emotional rejection by my adoptive mother, and the sense of being totally alone and adrift in the world, knowing no one with whom I share one drop of blood.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I would joke about not knowing what was going to come out of me. And when my first son was born and began growing and developing, he was the spitting image of his father. He bore no resemblance to me. (As an adult, he does have emotional similarities to me, but they took his lifetime-thus-far to become manifest.)

My second son, born seventeen months later, was an entirely different creature. We bonded hard and strong. We were close in a way I had never been close to anyone. (It didn't change how much love I felt for my first son—it was just different.)

Where my mother had always led me to believe that I was dumb, ugly, and incompetent, with this child I felt wanted and needed.

After the divorce, which occurred when he was five years old, he kept asking to be with me. On the weekends when the boys were with me, I would have them take their baths and put on clean clothes on Sunday evenings before I took them back to their father. I wanted their homecoming to be stressless—change into jammies, read a book, go to bed. An easy transition.

Son Number One readily complied. No problems. Going home.

Son Number Two fought me all the way. He dragged his feet. He sensed not that he was going home, but that he was leaving his home.

As he matured toward adolescence, I could—on each of his visits—see more and more of myself in him. He was darling. He was vivacious, funny, cute. He possessed a charming personality. And if I saw so much of myself in him and he possessed so many wonderful qualities, then was I really so bad? Could my mother's words have been misleading? Could I really have been as horrible a child as she portrayed me to be? For the first time in my life, I felt some self-worth.

When my son was 14, he knew he was mature enough that the courts would consider his desires, so told his father he wanted to live with me.

We had a magical life together. I worked like a dog to provide for him—for us. He went to the boarding school that fulfilled all his dreams. We were—as from his birth—joined at the heart.

When my son graduated from college, my husband had just died. My son and his soon-to-be wife moved in with me, saving me from my overwhelming grief and loneliness. Our lives were, from that point fourteen years ago to this past summer, closely intertwined on an—almost—day-to-day basis. For the past three-plus years, we've lived three blocks apart. For the past two-plus years, I've worked for him, helping him with his business.

Then business started having problems and marriage started having problems and he's moving to a city where jobs aren't as scarce as the proverbial hen's teeth.

I know I'll talk to him as frequently as I did when he was three blocks away. And I'll see him almost as frequently. Technology of the ages deems that we are all far more connected than ever before.

But he won't be right here. Around the corner. And so it feels like we're separated. And that brings tears to my eyes.

It doesn't change the worth his life has sprinkled over me like pixie dust. It just feels different.

Who knows what lies ahead?!

I wish him a speedy resolution to the business and financial challenges and a life of renewed happiness.

I won't "see [him] in my dreams." I'll see him on Google+ and Facebook and Twitter and Skype. And every couple of weeks, in person.

Life goes on.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Successful

Sometimes when the Jazzman is out pub-hopping with his buds on a Friday night, I'll watch programs like "Say Yes to the Dress" or "Four Weddings" to pass the time. On Sundays, I sometimes check out the wedding notices in the Washington Post to see if I know anyone who is getting married.

Without fail, the marriage participants are described as "a successful ..." doctor or lawyer or architect or whatever. Never will the description say doctor or lawyer or whatever without an adjective in front of it showing how much the person has accomplished in his or her life.

If the person is a garbage collector, he would be described as working for the city or county. Or skipped altogether. A stay-at-home mom who survived her divorce or her husband's death will not get recognition for that. Someone who is unemployed and struggling—successfully, thank you very much—to just get by and get the bills paid won't be acknowledged for that success. It's a small success to the world; it's a very great success to the individual.

Reading about or seeing these "successful" people made me wonder why it's so important. Why do we all need something to "crow" about?

I haven't gone to any of my law school reunions. I never passed the bar. I don't practice law. I worked for many years as a legal writer and editor, but I don't feel that matters to any of my classmates who have been practicing law for over 20 years now. To these "successful" legal practitioners, I'm not successful.

I recently applied for a city position for which my law degree and my writing and editing in the field of federal labor relations law was (I thought) a Very Big Deal. When the Vindicator writer who was assigned to that story reviewed all the applicants, he or she described me as a "freelance technical writer." What? (By the way, I was not chosen to be interviewed for that position.)

I consider my successes to include working a full-time and two part-time jobs to provide life's necessities while in law school and for several years thereafter when I gained custody of my 14-year-old son. And caring for my husband, attending all his oncologist's and radiology appointments and taking detailed notes, showing unending compassion for him while he moved from metastatic prostate cancer diagnosis to death. And surviving the degradation of the federal economy over the past two years as my salary got lower and lower with each passing month.

I pay my bills. I selflessly and lovingly help care for my two elementary-school-age grandchildren. I maintain a lovely home for my life partner, giving him a warm and safe place to return home to each night. I balance and juggle many different obligations to keep my life moving forward.

If that's not the definition of success, then please tell me what is!

Maybe we put too much emphasis on success, as we seem to do with happiness.

I made it through the day. I didn't fall apart or hurt anyone or cause others to wish their paths hadn't crossed mine that day.

I spoke kindly. To me, that's what's important.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Words

Let me just begin by saying the Jazzman thought it was a snoozefest. But I loved it.

I am not a movie critic. I've said many times that I go to movies and read books primarily for the escapism. Seeing how other people's lives are depicted by the writers lets me imagine that, with a little more hard work, I could have more. Or it makes me appreciate what I have and feel grateful that my life has been this good.

Imagine my surprise when I was noticing lighting and pacing and wardrobe when we watched "The Words" yesterday. So out of character for me!

I loved the lighting. Subtle. Smoky. To me, it felt very intimate.

And the wardrobe! The period costumes were fabulous. The little details in the dresses captured my sewist's heart. Oh, the bodice of wedding dress—I wanted to run home and duplicate it in my sewing room. It was charming.

The pacing of the dialog is something I've never noticed before. Well, except for TV shows and movies where the characters speak so quickly I can't understand what they're saying. This movie had pauses and rests that let me ponder what I had just heard and witnessed, rather than just rushing through to the next scene. I can see why the Jazzman thought it was slow, but I enjoyed it greatly.

Now here's what surprised me. When we ran into my son at the Northside Farmer's Market in the early afternoon, I told him we were going to see this movie and asked if he wanted to accompany us. He said he didn't like movies where people lie. Such plot lines always make him uncomfortable and he sits on the edge of his seat and wants to get out of there. It shocked me because I feel the same way.

Where did this come from? Was it my early "don't tell a lie" training when he was 2 or 3 or 4? Is it a genetic thing? Is it a personality thing? Who would ever have guessed that this was a thing we have and share?!

I was relieved when that was not the way this movie turned out—not the focus of the plot line. I loved how they wove the three books together, and how it all turned out. I'm not giving you any spoilers. And I'm not telling you to go to the theatre to see it, because many people haven't liked it. But when it comes out on video, I'll be downloading it to watch again!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Impossible Do-Over

I recently watched "A Little Bit of Heaven", starring Kate Hudson. (Spoiler alert: she dies of cancer.) I sobbed—yes, it's a major chick flick. But for me, as a widow of someone who died of cancer, it was a blast back to the final days of my husband's life.

He stopped eating on a Thursday. He stopped drinking on a Saturday. There were acts I had to perform with/on him (to get morphine into his body to try to quell the overwhelming pain) that one would never, ever want to perform on a loved one. The closer he got to his passing, the harder it was to understand what he was trying to say to me.

As Monday—after the Thursday, after the Saturday—progressed, his breathing became more and more labored. I would rush into the bedroom to see if I could do anything for him, then I'd rush out to try to call someone—anyone—to help him. Visiting nurse's associations, hospice, our doctors at Walter Reed. Can't anyone do anything to help this man?

I called our dear next-door neighbor, Peggy, and asked her to come help me. She told her boss that she had to leave the office—the tasks she needed to perform that afternoon were far more important than anything in her office. She came and sat beside John, talking him through each wave of excruciating pain. I ran in and out. Running. Rushing. Frantic.

Finally at about 4:00 in the afternoon, our hospice nurse stopped by. When he saw John's condition and heard the labored breathing, he immediately called the ambulance. The EMTs carefully carried John down the stairs and settled him into the ambulance for the ride to Hospice of Washington. I rode in the ambulance with him, singing to him for the 5-10 minute ride. Peggy followed in her car so she could bring me home after we got John settled for the night.

But within minutes of arriving at Hospice of Washington, he was gone. I had frantically rushed around for four or six hours to no avail. With no positive results.

When I watched the last hours of the Kate Hudson's character's life in the movie, I was touched with the beauty the writers had infused to the scene. Her friends and family were there, quietly, peacefully, lovingly carrying her through the final few hours. They weren't panic-stricken or rushing. They were peacefully tending and attending the end of a life. They were there.

A million times in the 14+ years since John's death, I have wished I had just stopped. Stopped and reflected. Stopped and sat with him. Stroked his head. Held his hand.

Why couldn't I have stopped?

Why couldn't I just be?

There's no do-over, no Mulligan, when one's need to provide comfort turns to resolving problems rather than providing succor.

I can never do that one over. I hope, wherever he is or isn't, he knows I'm sorry I didn't just be.


John and I met singing with the Washington Chorus, one of the primary symphonic choruses in Washington, DC. One of the many works we had performed together was "Porgy and Bess." As we were in the back of the ambulance, I was singing "Oh Lord, I'm On My Way," the final movement of "Porgy and Bess."

Oh Lawd, I'm on my way
I'm on my way to a Heav'nly Lan',
I'll ride that long, long road,
If You are there to guide my han'.

Oh Lawd, I'm on my way,
I'm on my way to a Heav'nly Lan'
Oh Lawd. It's a long, long way, but
You'll be there to take my han'.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Friends or Acquaintances?

The Jazzman and I were having a conversation about friends and marriage and divorce. Frequently when a couple is friends with another couple, a choice has to be made when divorce happens. Frequently, it's just too awkward for the foursome to stay friends all around.

I was telling him that with each divorce (and there have been so many!), I lost all my friends. His response was that they weren't really friends if they abandoned me simply because of the divorce.

Looking back, I really have, throughout my life, had only a handful of really good friends. I have more friends and a wider social circle now, in my 60s, than at any other time in my life. But note that I inherited them when the Jazzman and I became a couple. My best-friend-since-second-grade, my college piano-duet-partner, an FTU sorority sister, and my FSU sorority sister and subsequent roommate are the women I have been able to count on throughout my life. Another handful of dear friends were acquired during my years in Tucson. The latest friend who fits into the good friend category was "picked up" at the mall play area, when my grandchildren started playing with her daughter. She's the first person who became my friend when I moved to Youngstown (as opposed to all the friends I borrowed from my children when I moved in with them). If I'm going through a rough patch, these women are the ones who are there.

But there's a distinction to the groups. Some have known me since I wore bobby socks and saddle shoes. Some knew me before I became a widow. Some knew me when I was finding myself again in my 50s. And the most recent group knows me only as the Jazzman's girlfriend.

With the latest circle of friends, I sense that if the Jazzman and I were to decide to go our separate ways, these people would still be my friends.

The Jazzman's point in the conversation was that all these friends from marriages #1, #2 and #3 who ceased being my friends at the point of the divorce weren't really my friends to begin with.

I've learned to be more distinct when describing people within my sphere. They're our friends, or my chorus friends, or my Tucson friends, or my Washington friends, or my lifelong friends, or my …. Or they're my acquaintances.

There is a difference.

And I'm very grateful for all those whom I can call friends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Making the Effort

I'm in almost constant pain lately with my knees. The left, with the torn medial meniscus, is worse, but both are painful. Each step is accompanied by pain. When I turn over in bed at night and rest one knee on the other, I usually am awakened by the pain. I walk slowly at all times, carefully placing each foot, hunching my shoulders to try to brace for the pain. I'm counting the days until I travel to Cleveland to consult an orthopedic specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

During our 4th of July week at Lake Erie, my time bobbing around in the cool water was pain-free, leading me to believe that a little water exercise would not be a bad thing. At a party a week ago, several friends suggested I try out the water classes at the JCC.

After one more nudge from a chorus friend last night at rehearsal, I got my butt out of bed this morning, pulled on my swimsuit, and got myself to the 8:45 "Twinges in the Hinges" class.

After 45 minutes of bending and stretching and burning calories and reveling in bending my knee without pain, I'm feeling pretty good. And pretty proud of myself.

But you know who I'm feeling ever prouder of (if one can feel proud of people one doesn't even know)? The several morbidly obese individuals I saw at the gym who were making the effort.

I don't like my weight. I've been working on it and am proud that I'm now at the lowest point I've been in three years. But when friends look at me, they say, "You don't need to lose any weight."

I can move okay. Yes, I'm in pain, but I don't need a walker or a cane. I just need to move my butt.

But these people I observed today? What effort to even get out of bed or out of the chair. What effort to get in a car to get to the gym. What effort to get into a swimsuit. What effort to get to the pool, and into the water.

I am awestruck by the willpower of these people to make this effort—all this effort.

My BMI is now at 25.5. With the loss of four more pounds (I can do that!), I'll be at the normal weight range, out of the overweight category. I will feel like I've done a tremendous favor for my knees.

It's a big deal to me. It's nothing like the big deal of several of my classmates this morning, but I'm proud of me. And I'm proud of them.

May we all keep up the effort!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Slow and Steady

The year I turned 59, my body went to hell. In about six weeks, I gained 15 pounds, and it was all in my midsection. You've heard body types being described as apples or pears? After a life of being a pear, I suddenly morphed into an apple. My clothes didn't fit. I hated what I saw in the mirror when I turned sideways. I was mortified.

No matter what I did, no matter how I tried to increase exercise and decrease food intake, nothing changed. The scale display sat on 175 each morning. True, I'm 5'8", so 175 isn't a terrible thing. But when I examined BMI charts, I was in the "overweight" category. I had never been anything approaching overweight.

When I was in high school, people would tell me that when I turned sideways, I disappeared. That high school image is what we maintain of ourselves, right? How could this have happened?

The very worst was looking at this new body when trying to buy clothes. I'm sorry, but with a hormone-induced post-menopausal bulging belly, Spanx can only do so much. And it's not enough! I put on my black elastic-waist skirt and my white shirt to sing at Blossom and looked in the mirror as I walked out of the dressing room. Who-who-who was that very round older woman? Certainly not me!!!!!

After watching the scale go back and forth between 174 and 179 for several years—and during the same period suffering several knee injuries that impeded efforts to take more walks—I slowly started changing.

The Jazzman needed to take in more fiber to fight his diverticulosis. The Jazzman was told by his doctor that he needed to cut down his sugar to avoid adult-onset diabetes. The Jazzman decided to take more salads for his lunches. And since I'm the designated kitchen staff, I just started doing those things along with him. Then I heard Dr. Oz talk about green coffee pills. It may be a bunch of hooey, but there were guests on the show who had real and actual weight loss results, so buying one bottle of the pills couldn't hurt that much, could it?

Slow and steady, ounce upon ounce, day by day, five trips up and down the stairs each day. This morning I got on the scale and it said 169. One Hundred Sixty-Nine Pounds!!!!

Now to you skinny minnies and petite pollies and sweet young non-hormone-affected things, that may not seem like a big deal. But for me, who has wanted to cry for THREE YEARS each time I looked at the scale and it read 17x, 169 is One Great Big Deal!

And so I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. I go to Cleveland Clinic in three weeks to get a second opinion on my knees. Less weight means less stress on my aching knees, means greater ability to walk without pain, means easier access to exercise, means greater ability to lose weight.

At even one pound per month, by next summer I will be able to look at myself sideways in the black skirt and white blouse and not shudder.

And once I reach the "Normal weight" category on the BMI calculator, you can bet I'm going to feel like a winner. Hell, I might even spring the $70 for a new CleveOrchChorus dress that will actually fit me!

(And an enormous salute to PianoLady and to my daughter-in-law, both of whom have lost a Whole Lotta Weight this year. You inspire me.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Knowing the Meaning of Enough

Continuing on the theme of destashing and decluttering, I have a number of beautiful Longaberger baskets that are slowly finding new homes. But because my primary purpose of the destashing and decluttering is income augmentation, I am constantly asking myself, "is that enough?"

Which brings to mind a quote I heard on WOW (Women on the Web) Radio on SiriusXM. The host was interviewing investment banker and philanthropist Pete Peterson, who told this story on himself:

Authors Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller were at a party at billionaire Pete Peterson's home on Shelter Island. Vonnegut asked Heller how it made him feel that the host may have made more money in one day than Catch-22 (Heller’s most famous work) did in its entire run. Heller replied that he had something the host could never have, "the knowledge that I've got enough."
When Peterson told the story, the punchline was "I know the meaning of 'enough'." I like that ending better, actually.

This thought—the meaning of "enough"—relates to my situation in two ways. 1) At what point do I have enough whatever. Fabric, baskets, handcrafted mugs, shoes, clothes, … ; and 2) When liquidating items (e.g. selling on eBay or Etsy), is any amount greater than $0 enough?

For example, today I was searching listings for the Longaberger Large Gatehouse Basket Combo (meaning it's got a fabric liner and plastic protecter). This is a beautiful, useful basket that I'm not using. Searching closed listings on eBay lets me know whether the item sold and, if so, what the selling price was. If I bought a basket for, say, $75 in 2001, am I willing to let it go for $15? Am I only willing to let baskets go for x% of the original price? Is there a threshold price below which I'm unwilling to go through the busywork of finding a box, carefully packing the item, and driving to the post office?

Or, if my goal is income augmentation (don't you like that phrase?), do five items sold at $20 each equal a) $100 I wouldn't otherwise have had and b) freed-up space on the basement shelves?

If you have a magic answer, I'd love to hear it!

And in closing, I'll share my two most favorite recent destashes.

In 1988, when John and I were setting up housekeeping together for the first time, I bought some absolutely gorgeous Liberty of London polished cotton in a pink/blue/lavender/cream Sweet Pea print. I made a curtains and shams for our bedroom, and a coordinating comforter out of a companion fabric. I think I've still got the comforter packed away in the attic someplace. I had 4.5 yards of the Sweet Pea fabric left over. It's been rolled on its cardboard tube and has moved with me too many times to count since 1987. Two weeks ago I pulled it out, measured it, and posted it on eBay. It sold for $40. That $40 then funded over half the purchase of new drawer/door pulls for the breakfast nook that's currently being repainted.

The previous owner of my home had collected some lovely 1930s and 1940s lithographs, which I sold through an auction house in Cleveland over the past year. But there were two prints that were mid-century and inappropriate for that house. Their value, according to every art site on which I could find that artist listed, was $200-$400. But I have no emotional attachment to these prints. In an ideal world, they'd give me a month's worth of income replacement. But this isn't an ideal world. I placed them on eBay, two separate listings at $20 each. They sold for that amount to the only bidder. It's $40 I didn't have the day before, and it let me buy the paint for the breakfast nook.

Sometimes less is more. Sometimes enough is enough.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Live and Learn

Regular readers know I've lost most of my income this summer and am unsuccessfully hunting for suitable employment. To fill in the holes during this stressful time, I've been decluttering the house and trying to unload offering these items to deserving buyers on eBay.

One place I have lots of clutter is in my sewing room. I have a fabric stash that could keep me sewing for over two years with no trips to the fabric store. I also have dozens of patterns. Some are very dated, but a number are virtually collectors' items.

Earlier this week I sat down with a couple of pattern storage boxes in my lap and pulled out the patterns I was certain I wouldn't use again. Many were thrown straight into the trash can, but a couple of very special, expensive, and hard-to-find patterns went onto eBay. I didn't package them first to properly estimate postage. I just accepted the postage that a previous seller charged. eBay tries to make things easy for sellers, and I thought that was easy. Unfortunately, it wasn't smart.

I set the starting price at 99 cents. It was a very desireable pattern, after all, and had originally sold for $13.00, plus shipping. So it would surely bring in at least $5.00, right? Nope. It sold for 99 cents. And the shipping was set at $2.12.

I just ran to Walgreen's to get a shipping envelope when I realized I was all out of that size of envelope. $2.19 plus tax for the envelope. (You see a pattern here, don't you?) Plus the gas to get to Walgreen's. Now, as I print the shipping label, I find the postage is going to be $1.81. Plus the gas to get to the post office.

Can't somebody just hire me so I can quit throwing away so much money trying to generate income?!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

A friend from my IBM Tucson years posted a great piano-as-garden-art picture on my Facebook page today, and my mind started whirling around how people see me.

I see myself as a musician—and primarily a pianist—and have since childhood. But nowadays that's not necessarily what comes across first.

One of my COChorus colleagues somehow figured out I'm an accompanist and has asked me to accompany a performance he's doing in November. This! This is what I excel at!!

I also have a "permanent" gig with the Opera Western Reserve (OWR) Young Artists program. (But really, what is permanent these days? Look at the unemployment numbers. Look at funding cuts in the arts. This gig has lasted about six months so far and I feel lucky!) Several times a month I do what I do very well with delightful and very talented 20-something opera singers.

But each time a person moves to a new city or area, it takes a long time to get established. My son's friends occasionally heard me play at parties at his home. I introduced myself to a friend of his who had a few overflow accompaniment gigs he shared with me. Word started very slowly spreading around town. The artistic director of OWR called my son and said, "I keep hearing your mother's name." (Actually, he said, "I keep hearing your mother-in-law's name," but Tyler quickly disabused him of that notion!) And slowly, slowly over the past four-and-a-half years, I've built things up to one permanent gig.

Anybody can say he or she is anything. Nobody knows you're a dog on the Internet. I can say I'm a [really good] pianist—or a CIA-level chef or a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist—but until you see evidence of that identity, you'd best remain skeptical!

So a little proof comes out here and there, and a few more people in my new city see me as I see myself. And a little more income arrives to supplement my sadly lacking "real" income as a Web/technical/legal writer and editor.

Okay, it's not enough income to get the trim on the house repainted or the driveway widened before snow comes or the attic insulated to hold down the gas bills.

But it's income I will have enjoyed producing.

Aren't I lucky?!

(And a quiet salute to all those friends who think of me primarily as a pianist — thanks!)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Door to Door

Nine years ago I left a relationship and started all over again, again. My beloved heart-of-my-heart grandchildren were two years old and three months old. When choosing my venue for starting all over again, again, I found a house that was one mile away from their house. We said, "Someday the kids will ride their bikes to Grandma's house."

Last week it happened. They are now a-few-days-short-of-11 and two-months-past-9. Yes, their mother drove alongside them for the inaugural ride, but they did it!

And may there be many more bike rides to and from Grandma's!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How to / How not to

I've been thinking a lot lately about marriage—specifically, my parents' marriage.

I've divulged a number of times that I never saw my parents kiss in my entire life. Wait, that's not entirely true. Once, when I was about 11 or 12, we three kids were standing in the kitchen and, for some reason, egged them on. "Kiss him, kiss him," we chanted to Mother. She did. A peck on the cheek.

Daddy graduated from medical school at the age of 31 and started his medical practice in Orlando. Orlando, pre-Mouse, was a quiet little city of orange groves and dairy farms. The downtown strip was populated by Ivey's and Dickson-Ives department stores and a few banks and insurance agencies. Florida Sanitarium & Hospital, where Daddy's patients would go for surgery, was growing. Today it is Florida Hospital, and is a major medical presence throughout Central Florida and beyond. Daddy's first office was on Magnolia Avenue. Then, with his patient base grew, he was able to buy the lot on the corner of Hillcrest and Shine and build his own office. A savvy businessman, he built a building that would make money for him, with extra offices he could rent out to other doctors.

His medical practice encompassed family medicine, obstetrics, and general surgery. Many was the night he hopped out of bed at 2:00 a.m. after only a couple hours of sleep to go deliver another baby. But it was the surgery aspect that he loved the most. And his patients loved him.

However, the price of his success was long and taxing hours. He left the house around 6:00 a.m. each day, returning home around 11:00 p.m. He'd drive first to the hospital and make rounds. Then he'd stop at some diner between the hospital and his office for breakfast, arriving at his office around 8:00. He'd see patients all day, grabbing a bite at noon and on the way back to the hospital for evening rounds. Then there was paperwork and medical reports.

Mother, trained as a nurse, never worked after his graduation. My oldest brother was born a year before Daddy graduated, and their second son was born the year after they moved from Loma Linda to Orlando. When I was adopted in 1950, she had two boys in elementary school and a maid, Emma Hooks, who would come in each day to help Mother with the laundry and cleaning and the new baby.

As he grew busier, and as the children grew, she turned more to her church. She would drop everything and do anything when asked by anyone from her church. They got all her energy and her attention. Oh, and how she loved to shop! The more he worked to bring in money to increase the family's security, the more she would spend. I remember, once when I was in high school, him coming into my room and parodying her actions, sitting on the bed and patting the cover all around him, "I went shopping today and spent $100, but I don't know where it went." And this in an era when $100 was real money.

I loved him dearly. He made me feel like I had worth and value. In contrast, I felt no love for her. She criticized me continually and made me feel like I was dumb, ugly and incompetent. She criticized everyone behind their backs; me, she criticized to my face. As often as possible about every possible topic. She had a lifelong negative impact on me.

As he worked harder and came home more exhausted, she did nothing to alleviate his tension, to provide comfort and succor, to make him feel any more loved than I felt, to give him a "soft place to fall," in Dr. Phil-speak.

I will not deny that she added value. The home was spotless. The meals were nutritious and served on time to the children, with leftovers tucked into the refrigerator for his later arrival. The children were enrolled in and delivered to church school, church events, and music lessons. Recitals were attended. But love was not bestowed.

He was doing the best he could to provide for the family, and he was running on empty. All the time. It's amazing his first heart attack only came when he was 58.

I always wanted him to leave her. When I was getting my first divorce, I asked him why he never left her. He replied clearly, indicating years of reflection: "I knew I couldn't get you, and I couldn't stand to leave you behind."

I remember once hearing her yell at him, "You can have a divorce, and I'll nail you to the wall." Nice. You hear a lot of "What can we do to make this better" in that statement, don't you?!

But I learned, from my relationship with him and from observing their marriage, what to do and what not to do. I now have a wonderful man in my life who works every bit as hard as my daddy did. I tell him I love him as he walks out the door in the morning. I tell him I love him the last thing before our eyes close at night. I strive to keep his stash of lunch stuff stocked so he easily throw something interesting in his bag to carry onto the train cab. I try to keep the house tidy and the lawn mowed and an interesting supper available so he has a peaceful environment to come home to. I spend as little as possible to avoid being a burden to him. I tell him frequently how much I appreciate all he does for me.

And as a result, I have the most wonderful, supportive, companionable relationship I've ever had. At 62!!

What a lucky girl I was and am, then and now.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Feeling F*ing Old

I believe I mentioned on more than one recent occasion that my knees are bothering me. I was in pain almost every day we were in Italy during May. At times, knee pain woke me during the night when I shifted positions. But it was erratic.

Some days it was the left knee, some days the right. One or two days were good, with no pain in either knee. But there were days I couldn't walk without pain.

When I returned, I saw the orthopedist, who shot both knees full of cortisone and said he'd see me in about four months when it wore off.

But then I thought I was young again and did some landscaping work in the back yard. Oops. Bad decision. I was trying to chop a root that was in the way of the brick border I was installing on a bed of hostas and day lilies. I chopped and chopped with the shovel, then stupidly hopped on the shovel. When the shovel turned, I turned with it, hearing lots of snaps, crackles and pops as my left foot slammed into the earth and my left knee gave way.

A shot of cortisone evidently cannot counteract stupidity. Last week we spent our annual week at Madison-on-the-Lake, and every step was accompanied by pain. Almost the only time I was without pain was when I was standing in cold Lake Erie, flexing my left knee.

No we're back home. I called the ortho's office this morning, but the secretary has not called me back. I asked to see my doctor ASAP, but we must have different definitions of ASAP.

How much pain am I in? I want to sit and cry. Just cry!

When am I not in pain? When I'm sitting on the couch with an icepack on my knee.

How much am I enjoying being past 60 years of age and all the health challenges that involves? Not so much.

The photo above is from my birthday weekend in 2010, about a month after all this knee nonsense began with a fall and a torn left medial meniscus.

In case you haven't figured it out, aging is not for wimps!!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

In Love With an Object

When the Jazzman told me he was getting me an iPad for my birthday, I was conflicted. I had wanted to get him one for Christmas, but had never thought it was something I really needed.

The purchase occurred three days ago, and I'm already in love with this inanimate object.

My first feeling of love came when I was looking at some photos. The retina display on the new iPad is the most crisp, brilliant display I've ever seen. You thought your HDTV was some fine viewing? Pick up an iPad and look at some of your favorite photos. Just incredible!

The day after getting the iPad, I dropped my iPhone. I'm prone to dropping my iPhone, but this time it hit the pavement at just the right angle to shatter the screen. When I told Tyler I was headed to the Apple store in Cleveland for a new phone, I asked if he needed anything. Of course he replied, "A new MacBook Pro with retina display." After seeing images on the retina display, I could fully understand his wish.

My second realization of my love came this morning. When I wake up in the morning, some two hours after the Jazzman has gotten up and left for work, I reach for my phone. I read my mail and then see what's happening with my friends on Facebook. This morning as I sat flipping from Facebook to knitting and sewing blogs, I was stunned by the clarity of the images. Then I followed a link to read an article in the New Yorker and was thrilled with the size of the print and the page. I didn't have to keep moving the page back and forth on the device screen to be able to read an article. It didn't hurt my eyes!!!

So, after thinking the Jazzman would have done better to just give me a pedicure gift certificate, I'm thrilled and happy to have my new tool.

Thanks to the Jazzman for knowing me better than I know myself!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Notes from Italy

Reviewing my notes from the first full day in Torino, I find lots of very interesting things to share with you. I'm listing them in the order they were presented to us, as our coach and guide took us around Torino. (Photo: Our guide, Mateo. Note the perfectly cinched trench coat and the brilliant blue shoes.)

Porta Susa station

We saw a large construction project, and the guide explained that this was the Porta Susa train station. Here's a photo. As it was explained to us, Turin will be the first city in Europe with no trains above ground. It is currently the largest construction project in Europe. As I understood the guide, Turin will be the hub for all high-speed trains in Europe. Their metro system is installing a line from Porta Susa to the existing Porto Nuova station to access standard trains.

The Wikipedia account says the station was to be finished in 2011, but when we were there mid-May in 2012, it was still under construction. It's really going to be a spectacular building when completed. (Another account says it "will be completed" in 2009 and says it will be served by all levels of trains: high-speed, regional, local and metro.

White Magic/Black Magic

Turin is said to be a magic city, being part of two magic triangles. The black magic triangle consists of Turin, London and San Francisco. The white magic triangle consists of Turin, Prague and Lyon. Walking Tour of Torino. An interesting account from the Washington Post. One more account: "powerful energy center of the Earth". If you're interested in more articles, google 'white black magic turin'.

Architecture

Turin, along with Milan, was considered the Art Nouveau capital. Most of this work was done between the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century. In Italy, "Art Nouveau" was also called "Stile Libery," a salute to the Liberty & Co. stores in London. (Sewists, you know Liberty cotton. Same source.) Photos of typical Turin architecture. Another fine account of architecture in Turin.

Streets

The early colony that would become Torino was laid out in the traditional checkerboard style. Later, diagonal roads were added to give the king a quick way to get out of the city.

From the palace to the banks of the Po River lies the diagonal "Via Po." The buildings on Via Po have porticos along the front. On one side, the porticos cross the side streets, making it difficult today for busses and trucks to navigate the turn. On the other side, the porticos stop at the corner of the building and start again across the side street on the corner of the next building. The side that had the continuous portico? That was for the royal party to use. The side that forced you to get wet when crossing the street? For the regular people like you and me. Mentions the checkerboard layout. You might find interesting this blog post in the Washington Post talking about the porticos. (A note from our guide: the porticos in Torino are in the Baroque style, while the porticos in Bologna are Medieval.)

Pietro Micca

I had written down "Pietro Micca" with no idea why. Googling led me to this interesting account, which demonstrates the important role just one person could play in blocking the enemy.

Film

The first movie shot in Torino was the 1914 Cabiria. For many years it was considered, along with D.W. Griffith's "Judith of Bethulia", to be the first feature films, but that has since been disproved. However, it was notable for the first use of a camera dolly. Cabiria was restored and screen at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. Martin Scorese introduced the film, and his remarks are available here. The Wikipedia page contains more interesting facts.

Cinecittà is said to be the greatest cinema complex in the world. Because of its early cinema history, Torino is inextricably linked to the cinema industry.

V.E.R.D.I.

In Italy, the nationalist phrase "Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re d'Italia!" ("Long live Victor Emmanuel king of Italy") was hidden from the Austrian enemy by its acronym Viva VERDI!, that passed for a praise of the music of Giuseppe Verdi.

Relics of Christ

There are religious historians who believe that all three of the major relics of Christ are located in Turin. It is believed that the Holy Grail is buried under Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio. The shroud is located in the Chapel of the Shroud in the back of that same building. Our tour guide also said something about a piece of the original cross also being in that same building, but I could not find any references to this—it's just what I scribbled down as the guide was talking.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

I had never heard of UNESCO until last year, when the Jazzman and I were planning our vacation in Ireland. (Talk about a sheltered upbringing!) Our guide spoke about the number of sites in Italy that are UNESCO sites. The key here is that war is not allowed in a UNESCO protected site. (Of course, the cynic would ask how you're going to stop someone intent on waging war ….) The residences of the Royal House of Savoy in Torino are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as are Porto Venere and the villages in the Cinque Terre. Also on this list are the Holy Mountains of the Piedmont.

Mole Antonelliana

This building is the largest brick building in the world. It is the primary landmark in Turin—at 548 feet in height, it's visible throughout the area. Originally constructed as a synagogue, it now houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Wikipedia. A lovely photo of Mole Antonelliana on this blog, along with other great pictures.

Villa Scott

Because of the link to the cinema industry and the money that can produce, some fabulous villa were constructed in Torino in the early 20th Century. One of those is Villa Scott. It is a significant example of Stile Liberty. "Deep Red" was filmed here, associated with the aura of black magic in Torino.

Exploring Turin's Black Magic

There are evening tours in Torino that will tell you more about the links to black magic.

Piazza Vittorio Veneto

Everybody's gotta be superlative at something! Piazza Vittorio Veneto is the largest square without a statute in all of Europe.

Bicerin

Torino is known for the coffee drink called Bicerin. Served in a small cup or glass, the bottom is covered with a bitter hot chocolate, then topped with espress, then with hand-whipped cream. Caffè Bicerin is the distinctive cafe in which to try this drink. Caffè Bicerin was founded in 1763. Torino has 13 historical restaurants and caffès that have been opened over 100 years. One restaurant was founded in 1714.

Public Works Art

Torino is know for its public works art—modern art in unusual places throughout the city. The most notable piece we saw in our stroll through the city was "Palazzo con Piercing," the work of architect Corrado Levi, in collaboration with the group of young artists and architects Cliostraat. Gogle "palazzo con piercing" to see more images of this interesting and unique work.

Guide's Joke of the Day

What are the three most read books?
1. The Holy Bible
2. The Ikea Catalogue
3. Da Vinci Code


And that's my tour of Torino.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Added Functionality

For the Jazzman and his cousin, Maggie, who asked, and for anyone else who prefers to read from paper, I've added a Print button. It's at the bottom of each post, near the place where one can post comments. I don't like that it includes ads, so I'll keep looking for a better way to enable this functionality. But for right now, you can PDF or print any of my posts and skip all the sidebar information. You'll get just the text and the photos. Enjoy!

Italy: Days 9 & 10

Verona, Views from Above, and Arrivederci, Italy

Our last full day in Italy started with a walking tour of Verona, led by a local guide. The bus took us up to Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes di Verona (Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes). We stood a long time on the plaza outside the church, admiring and snapping dozens of pictures of the view of Verona. Beautiful!

Back on the bus, we headed down to the banks of the Adige River. Within about 15 minutes, I had imbibed all the history I could handle, so the Jazzman and I set out on our own. The previous night, on our informal walking tour, we had seen some shop windows that we found interesting, so we went exploring. We had a great time walking along ancient streets and admiring beautiful and interesting things in windows and stores. After a while, we wanted to stop for lunch and headed back to the Piazza della Erbe and to the same caffè where we had dined the previous evening.

The day was beautiful, the food was—as with most every meal we had enjoyed in Itay—delicious, and the people-watching was terrific!

We wandered on the piazza for a while, looking at the kitschy little items offered by the vendors, buying a couple of goodies for friends and relatives, and then we headed back toward the hotel. Because of my painful knee, we didn't do a lot of the historical explorations that we might have done, but—really—sometimes there's only so much one can do!

Sara, our tour director, had promised a surprise before our farewell dinner. We all gathered downstairs, then started walking toward the Piazza Bra. We stood there for five or ten minutes, wondering what would happen next. Then Sara told us to turn around, and we saw a caffè with tables set out for us. She told us she was treating us to spritzes. Well, we had seen these picturesque orange drinks at most every caffè we had passed since we arrived in Verona. A few of us had tried them already, but there was much excitement around the tables! Here's more about the spritz, very popular in Italy right now.

After spritzes and bar snacks, it was time to go to the chosen restaurant for our farewell dinner. We headed to Ristorante Greppie. I can't even begin to tell you what we ate; all our meals, equally incredible, are glommed together in my mind now. But I can tell you we ate and drank and laughed. Then headed back to the hotel to finish packing and saying goodbye to the new friends whom we wouldn't see in the morning.

Let me say a word about our tour director, Sara. What a brilliant woman! She is a lifelong learner. She decided at a young age that she wanted to learn everything she could in her life. Sara speaks many languages, is a sommelier, and an academe. In addition to her university position in Torino, she leads tours to several European and Eastern European countries. And she is so fashionable! Each time I looked at her and her personality and style, I could see my granddaughter in a similar position in twenty years. Sara went out of her way at every opportunity to make our tour the best it could be.

But she hates pictures of herself. One of her cardinal rules is "no pictures of the tour director." So here's a picture she would allow: As she was dressing for dinner, the back strap on her dress broke. So she just reached into her bag of stunning jewelry, pulled out this brooch, and used it for a closure. Brilliant and beautiful.

In the morning, we loaded up the bus, drove to the Venice airport, and began the long process of boarding passes, security checks, and waiting for our flight. Then Atlanta, then Pittsburgh, a van to transport us, and Home, Sweet Home.

I've been to Europe many times—probably 25 or more. But this tour, with our dearest friends, seeing beautiful places and eating delicious food, has to be one of the best trips I've ever taken. Thanks to the Jazzman for making it possible.

Some postscript thoughts: While searching for links for these posts, I found a couple that would be very useful for anyone planning a trip on their own. Check these out: Offbeat Travel and Italy Beyond the Obvious: Tips and advice from a former tour guide.

Most of the photos I've used in this [very long] account of our trip were mine. I also had some very nice shots from various locations—those, unfortunately, are on my Nikon CoolPix camera that is still somewhere in Italy. But the Jazzman also had quite a few great shots. So I'm sharing with you now something that caught his eye. When the tobacconist closes for the night, there's still a tobacco vending machine to satisfy your nicotine fit. Cute, huh?

Thanks for reading, and thanks—again—to my friend Jill for nudging me along to get this written.