Index To A Life

As I’ve mentioned many times throughout this blog, I have always had a deep and abiding love for music.   So much so that it serves as an “index” of sorts for my almost 57 years of living.  Specific songs produce immediate memories and visual images in my mind’s eye of a particular time and place.  A ‘rolodex’ of my memories, if you will.

My earliest memories were of ‘church songs’; songs we sang in Sunday School at our Lutheran church in the mid to late 60’s.  “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Fast forward from elementary grade Sunday school to “Luther League”.  Just as my physical body was growing and changing, so too were my musical tastes, as they met with the songs of that era. To this day, as soon as I hear the first few stanzas of “Magic” by Pilot, there is an image that pops up on my “screen” that seems as real as if it were yesterday and yet light years ago….simultaneously, somehow.  I’m sitting on a log on a fall day with my good friend Jayne and several others. We’re at a remote location up the road from what is now the Pleasant Hill Outdoor Camp.  It’s the Luther League “initiation” event and we are excitedly chatting about that and other things. The “other things” including the fact that one of the “older” Luther Leaguers who was to be initiating us is someone I happen to have had a huge crush on over the span of several of my teen years.  Of course, being the total socially inept wallflower that I was, Mr. L.F. never even had a clue that I scanned the congregation for his blonde locks every Sunday from my perch in the choir and watched with my heart doing flip flops as he came down the center aisle on his Sundays to help usher. I think someone had a transistor radio there that day and this song played during that time there on the log, hence the permanent ‘DVD’ it created in my brain.

In that same general time frame of my early teens, I discovered the one and only Elton John, John Denver, and The Carpenters…and so it is that songs like “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, Take Me Home Country Roads”, “Rainy Days & Mondays” and “If” by Bread bring on images of me lolling around in my bedroom, staring off into space. A bedroom filled with posters of John Denver and my then sexy ballet dancer idol – Mikhail Baryshnikov, where I listened to music for hours while wrestling with teenage hormone-driven melancholia and introspection. Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” was also a regular on my turntable at that time.

Late junior high/early high school I happened to be the piano accompanist to the church junior choir.  Our church back then housed “interns” … young college-aged men studying to become Lutheran ministers, each for a year or so.  The one during this particular time period caught my silly teen eye … a totally one-sided situation (mine) I assure you, as I barely even spoke to him for the entire duration of his internship.  However, as the choir practiced immediately after school and I was not driving quite yet, he nicely offered to come pick me up at the high school in order to get me to practice in a timely manner.  Oh be still my heart! For a shy teen who was so totally inexperienced with even talking to guys, let alone never even dating any, this was the pinnacle of my existence at that moment in time!  For the first time in my life, I felt like “hot stuff”, walking out amongst my high school peers to get in the car of an “older man” after school once a week.  Just writing that sentence makes me laugh, even after all these years!!  I was so clueless.  I remember these car rides vividly along with some of the songs playing on the radio at the time.  Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” and “Three Times A Lady” by The Commodores are the standouts in my mind.

As high school progressed, I stopped playing piano for the choir but I never stopped loving the music of the day.  “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas and “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin were among many of note back then.

From high school it was on to college where not only did I blossom and expand my world in so many ways but, so too my musical tastes.  Heretofore, I was mostly into folk, ballads, and soft rock.  My new world found instant pleasure as well with pop tunes like “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, a song that to this very day just makes me feel good whenever I hear it’s fast lively beat.  It transports me immediately back to those college days that were some of the best in my life.  “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics and “Centerfold” by the J.Geils Band evoke similar feelings of positivity and rejuvenation.

My sophomore year was a pivotal one for many reasons.  For starters, this was when my friends and I discovered a place out on the far west side of Columbus called The Dixie Electric Company … and I discovered how much I loved to dance.  We went at least once a week. As soon as I hear the first few bars of “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy, the song they opened with every night, I can see the dance floor in the darkened room, strobe lights flitting around like lightning bugs in the summer.  This was also the time and place I met my first and only long-term boyfriend.  He asked me to dance. I used to remember the song that we first danced to…and if I heard it again I probably still would but right now the name eludes me. I was in awe of his 6’4″, Tom Selleck-like good looks, dark mustache and all.  He was a smooth operator … too smooth for this inexperienced small-town girl.  He told me he drove a “German sports car”…..which turned out to be a yellow and black VW Karmann Ghia, a bit of a trick for his tall self.  He was full of self confidence and charm … enough to sell sand to the Arabs if he wanted to. Well I fell … hook, line, and sinker…. for this older looking smooth dude who made me feel like a million bucks.  Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when he revealed that not only was the ID he used to buy us wine a fake, but he was actually 2 years YOUNGER than me!! I was in shock but ended up going to his high school graduation at the end of that year and many other events throughout the three years we dated.

Many many songs mark this time period for me.  Abba was and still is one of my all-time favorites bands, as was and is ELO. In fact, “Take A Chance On Me” was the song that sparked the idea for this very post, when my iMusic “mixer” included it in a recent playlist for me. It instantly evoked such a feeling of happiness and pleasure that I felt I needed to further explore this whole idea of “music-ignited memories”.

After college, life started to get real serious real quick. My first job was on a very stressful, fast-paced pediatric unit where my roommate and fellow OSU classmate also worked.  She and my boyfriend were both chain smokers and soon I began the nasty habit as well.  We worked long and hard hours on the floor and then stayed way past our shift smoking and charting in the nurse’s lounge. Can you imagine!?  Stupid fools we were!  I had even given a speech in high school about the health-related ‘evils’ of smoking! This became my James Taylor phase, as his smooth and silky “You’ve Got A Friend , Sweet Baby James” and so many others were what I listened to in an effort to balance the hectic work life.  Even though I thankfully have not had a cigarette in my mouth for over 30 years now, as soon as I hear his voice, I STILL think about lighting up.  The brain is a strange and powerful thing indeed.

In June of 1987, four years out of college, I met my future husband and we married 7 months later.  From here life got REALLY serious REALLY fast … a move from the city back to small town life, the birth of our daughter, life threatening illnesses for both of us – in the same year no less, job losses, financial struggles and much much more.  During these 24 years there was not a lot of extra thought given to music per se’.  There wasn’t time.  Then in 2011, a month before our daughter was to graduate from college, things fell apart .  The bottom fell out of my life completely.  Back came the music … in a VERY big way.  I was totally heartsick and broken.  The songs of Selah — “Rescue Me”,Press On”, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and many many more spoke to my wounded heart and helped to pull me through the trauma of that first year after he left.  As much as I love those songs, I have a hard time listening to them now, without choking up and tears, as they transport me back in time to those very, very dark days.

Almost 7 years later and my music is front and center again and I enjoy so many different artists and genre’s.  Music touches me so deeply, more so than just about anything else.  It has the power to make me deliriously happy or very ‘gray’ and melancholy.  But no matter the mood evoked, it brings images to my mind …. truly an “index” to my life.

How about you? What makes your memories come alive? What place does music have in your life?

Advertisements

You Did What?

Why … thank you for asking!  I’ll be happy to tell you what I did today on this rare workday off.  I must warn you, though … it’s quite RIVOTING and fast-paced, as I crammed every minute full of as many different activities as my old brain could possibly handle! Hold onto your seats!

“They” … whoever “they” are, say that as we get older our ability to multitask decreases.  I would agree with that somewhat, for those things that require more critical thinking skills, but for someone who will very soon be yet another year past the ‘speed limit’, I think I did pretty darn good today.

My day started off with a heavenly little bit of ‘sleeping in’, as I slept till 5 rather than my usual 4am. I gave my poor treadmill a break this morning … figuring if someone was walking on MY back 4 – 5 days a week, I would need a break from all that pounding and raucous music too!  I’m real conscientious that way.

I had to be at a doctor’s appointment in Wooster at 9:30 so, since I didn’t know what the roads would be like, I left at 8:30.  As luck would have it …or, more accurately the LACK of luck … I got stuck behind a salt truck going 35 miles an hour, ALL. THE. WAY. TO. WOOSTER.  Go figure.

I was already rather steamed about having to spend my day off going to the dermatologist for what I thought was nothing more than an opportunity to help fund some new chairs for the doctor’s waiting room or maybe a yacht for their summer weekends. I was there two months ago for something very minor and unrelated. I vividly remember sitting there shivering and trying, without much success, to keep my “girls” covered in the paper version of what I’m sure all the Paris runways are featuring…the airport runways that is … where they most likely use them to clean bird poop off the plane windshields……because they sure aren’t good for covering the human body. Anyways, I remember the very young PA looking at me and saying something like “why don’t I just take a look while you’re here and make sure there’s nothing else to be concerned about”.  She glanced at my back and said there was a little something or other that she didn’t quite like the looks of.  She then proceeded to poke me with some lidocaine and sliced it right off.  About two weeks later I got a voicemail followed by a letter saying it was “abnormal” and they wanted me to come back for follow-up in 2 months.  Two MONTHS?!  The nurse in me was a bit baffled.  My inner skeptic decided it must not be serious or they’d want me back sooner and I settled on the assumption they just want my $40 co-pay.  Fast forward to today.

Once again I was asked to don the divine one-size-does-NOT-fit-all paper ‘vest’.  The medical assistant said to put it on with the opening to the back.  I always have to stifle an overwhelming urge to laugh when they say that.  Really?!!  Helloooo…….it’s PAPER for crying out loud! Why does it matter if the ‘opening’ is in the front or back.  Those darn things already have more open areas than ‘covered’ areas and on the off-chance that what they want to see is not already exposed, it’s just PAPER … rip it if you need to!!  Anyways, after sitting there freezing for 15 minutes, the PA came in and asked me how my back was and if that area had all healed up OK.  I had to immediately put the kibosh on my ‘inner smartass’ who almost piped up and said, “how should I know … I live alone with 2 cats and if they start talking, I highly doubt they’ll be telling me about a spot on my back. Heck no … they’ll be griping about having to sleep in the basement every night or never getting to go outside to terrorize the birds and squirrels they can’t take their eyes off of.  So, Ms. Young-Thing with the perfect skin, I don’t have a clue what my back looks like.  For all I know I could have an ancient treasure map back there.  Instead, however, I merely smiled and said I really don’t know but it doesn’t hurt so I assume it’s all OK.  Much to my surprise, she went on to tell me that the little mole in question had been at the beginning of the path to melanoma.  WoW! I did not expect to hear that.  It was not melanoma … yet, but if the other girl hadn’t noticed it, it probably would have become that at some point, she reported.  I was afraid of this.  All my years of baking in the sun … that beautiful golden orb that makes me feel so much better whenever I’m surrounded by its’ rays … are coming back to haunt me.  It seems so unfair.  Whatever.  I’m very thankful they caught it.

My second stop of the day was at one of my most favorite grocery stores of all time – Buehler’s – Milltown, also in Wooster.  Oh how I love the rare occasions when I get to shop there.  If my life weren’t centered in Loudonville, Mansfield and now Mount Vernon, I probably would all the time.  They have beautiful produce, a vast selection of interesting ‘homemade’ deli-type items, high quality meats, the largest selection of wine and beer in the area and many interesting and unique brands and types of products you can’t find anywhere else.  Yes…it’s also pricier than what I would like but as infrequently as I go, I’ll deal with it. Then, of course the “piece de resistance” is the fact that they will transport your purchases via conveyor belt out to your car and load them all in for you.

This being the middle of January, I’m still trying to make good on my resolution to eat healthier.  So, with a car full of fresh veggies and fruit, I made my way home, arriving about noon.  Of course, as most of us know, the healthiest foods are not already processed or prepared, so, this is where my multitasking skills got a workout.  From noon to about 5, I made a big batch of fresh broccoli salad, an equally large fresh fruit salad, 2 jars of pickled onions to use in various ways, and a pan full of fresh roasted beets; all of which required a tremendous amount of washing, peeling, slicing and dicing, not to mention making the 2 kinds of salad dressings from scratch as well. I won’t have to cook all week.

Whew, what a day it’s been, indeed. Aren’t you glad you asked!

 

As somewhat of a P.S. —— I wanted to make mention of the fact that I finally figured out how to insert a list of “Categories” for my blog posts on all the pages of this site except the Home page.  For some reason it will not appear there, but, this listing should be somewhat helpful if you’re looking for a post in a specific topic area. If you click on a topic it should take you to all the posts under that.  Me figuring out how to work this website is a work-in-progress.

A Good Day

Initially, I rather dreaded today, anticipating the lengthy trek in this cold and ‘messy’ weather. Messy in regards to trying to maneuver the icy driveways, sidewalks, steps and porches of the homes that I tramp in and out of all day, without falling on my keister.  Not a simple task this time of year.

I needn’t have worried.  My favorite daily devotional talks about “watching for the treasures that He has carefully ‘planted’ throughout our day… specifically for us”.  I don’t always remember to do that, but when I do, I am blessed and in awe of what I see.  Today was one of those days.  I left the radio silent and instead used the entire day of driving to ponder and take notice of my surroundings.

It is a fact — I do NOT like winter …..its’ short and sunless days depress me. I don’t like walking on slippery surfaces and having to dress like the Michelin Man every time I go out. Having said all that though, I do always look for the beauty and art in things, especially in nature around me wherever my travels lead.

My first “treasure” today popped up so quickly I had no time to react, as I would have loved to have taken a picture. Imagine a pristine snow-covered hillside FILLED with turkeys … probably 75 – 100, just north of Amity in Knox county.  I was flabbergasted and so wished that I could stop and go back  …. but, alas, I had a scheduled visit to get to. What a site to behold!  If you were a fly on my dashboard, you would have chuckled at my childlike glee upon seeing such an unusual site.

There were other treasures of note as well. Various “critter sightings” that He knows I love to see in particular. As I drive, very carefully I should note, I am also constantly “scanning” the snowy fields, the tree branches and the tops of utility and fence posts for anything from the animal kingdom…but especially owls.  I take notice of the minutia that many probably don’t … the squirrel and bird’s nests in the trees, the cows and what they’re doing in the fields, old barns from another era that have been lovingly preserved, the ‘special’ trees that draw my eye — the ones that are extra large or old or shaped so beautifully or uniquely. The stately sycamore being a favorite among many.  All of this caught my eye today as I traveled many small and winding backroads through both “English” and Amish farmland. To say I have always felt so blessed to live in such a place of great beauty is quite the understatement indeed.

An even bigger treasure today, though, was of the human variety.  If you watch the daily news too much, like many of us do, it’s very easy to feel jaded, stressed, anxious, insecure and less than thrilled with humankind in general. All of the evil and wickedness and people who are just flat out mean and inconsiderate. Today, however, His treasures for me restored my faith in mankind once again.  I had the great pleasure of visiting with some really nice people.  Common, hard-working folk, some in really rough situations.  I was raised with the concept – “if you are nice to people, they will be nice to you”. Well, I’m happy to report that that has been true for me 99% of the time throughout my life. Today was no different. What a simple but beautiful pleasure … having a pleasant and meaningful conversation with someone who is polite and kind towards you. A lost art on both the giving and receiving ends. It sounds ridiculously simplistic, but, as our society has become so tech-focused and less and less face-to-face focused, I personally consider this a “treasure” indeed … sprinkled throughout my day.

So, friends, as you can see, my intended couple of short paragraphs about the ‘beauties’ found in my day turned into yet another long expose’. It seems I always end up having more to say than I ever realize.

I hope you will make a conscious effort now and then to look for the small “treasures” hidden along your daily path. It makes for a very good day.

 

Picture This …

Well, as we begin a new year, I’ve decided to begin yet another new category for my blog…….because I CAN……seeing as it’s MY blog and I can do whatever I want to with it…..said with all the snarky bit of attitude I seem to have acquired somehow this morning.  Probably has something to do with this being the first day of my new diet……#5,632….whereby I have deemed it a day of “fasting” on nothing but hot tea and homemade bone broth. Yippee!!!! The choice being “skinny and snarky” or “fluffy and funny”……..skinny being a relative term, of course,…since I haven’t really been skinny, per se’, since college. Of course the word “fluffy”….coined by a famous comedian who prefers that word as opposed to “fat” is rather relative as well…..MY relative…..a very CLOSE relative that I can’t seem to get outa my house for love nor money! You know, the ones who stay and stay till they make a nuisance of themselves and you have to just about come right out and be RUDE to get them to leave!!  Well…..I guess it’s SHOWTIME and my next great attempt is mighty rude indeed!!!  I’m gonna just shut down that revolving kitchen door and starve the crap right out of that freeloader!!  A couple days of tea and bone broth outa be more than enough to get ANYONE to start looking for a new place to hang out! But that’s not the topic of this post now is it. Geez Louise……put on your blinders and ignore all the tempting “bunny trails” Woman!!

This new category is going to be all about photos…..ones that I have taken, whether it be with my cell phone or my “fancy pants” Canon that I am still trying to figure out how to use. I’m not sharing them because I think they are even remotely good or great or award-winning in their topic or quality. I’m sharing them because they have meaning to me…for one reason or another. They help to illustrate and document my life’s journey.  If for absolutely no other reason, these photos and this blog, for that matter, will serve as something a little more tangible to help my future grandchild know their grandma a little better. That may or may not be a good thing.

This first “installment” happens to be of some watercolor paintings I’ve been monkeying around with lately. I hadn’t done any painting whatsoever for YEARS, as evidenced by the fact that when I went to use my watercolors last week, they had completely turned to some sort of strange ‘mutant’ liquid that was actually starting to eat thru the metal tubes! Needless to say I gifted myself with a new set. A couple of these were done with watercolor pencils and a couple with the new paints. I definitely don’t claim to be an artist but I had forgotten how much I really enjoy painting. I hope to do more of it in the coming year. Welcome to the inaugural post of my Photo category.

fullsizeoutput_5f5

Full Circle

It goes without saying that parenting has its’ ups and downs. Children, after all, don’t come with a “user manual” or a snappy little video that gives us a step-by-step tutorial ……like the plethora of offerings you can find on YouTube.  For one thing, they’re all so very different…and unpredictable.  Many years ago I went thru a phase where I was majorly into sculpting miniature fairies and other ethereal little beings out of polymer clay. I would work long and tediously on each little body…each little face…trying to get it just perfect before baking it to make it rock hard. Sometimes, however, no matter how diligently I prepared, no matter how much I wanted it to end up looking a certain way, when I put it in the oven, something in the “curing” process caused it to change and it came out much differently.  Parenting can be very similar.

When I was in college back when the 70’s ended and the 80’s began, I became very interested in the whole “natural” movement and the DIY (do it yourself) way of thinking. I was also, by nature, a pretty “domestically oriented” type of gal. Thus, when I got married and had my daughter, I was extremely vigilant about cooking everything from scratch, baking homemade bread, sewing all kinds of things, quilting, making my own cleaning products, and several years later I started my own business whereby I created a line of over 30 products…….made from scratch, after doing TONS of research into natural soaps, lotions, salves, ointments, etc. etc.  I would estimate that I’ve probably made a few thousand bars of cold process (the kind your great grandma used to make…except better) soap over the coarse of about 5 years. I now have the arthritis in my hands to prove it!  Anyway……I digress…..

I think, as parents, we kind of hope……somewhere way down deep in our hearts, that our children, who we know are watching us, will, at some point, find pleasure in some of the same things we do. Or that they will at least see the value and importance in them as they are maturing. I’m no exception. I enjoyed all of these “domestic” pursuits very much and naturally hoped that my young daughter would as well.  I had dreams of the two of us cooking together…sewing together…..and basically just enjoying what I thought of then as important “motherly” and “wifely” pursuits……things that I felt were important contributions to a good family life. Things a mother teaches her daughter how to do…..and then she teaches her daughter..and so on and so on.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my daughter……….MY daughter…….the only daughter of a “dyed-in-the-wool” “Suzy Homemaker”,  chose 3rd grade basketball and soccer over baking cookies with Mommy.  The one who chose high school volleyball and athletic pursuits instead of “Home Ec” and learning how to cook or sew.  She had zero interest in learning anything taking place in the kitchen other than when I rang the “dinner bell”.  When it came to my business and possibly learning the skill of soap making or how to create other products or the artistic end of creating packaging or giving the products names and such, she REALLY voiced her displeasure and disinterest in following suit.  She declared loudly and openly on several occasions that she NEVER wanted any part of the soap making nor any other type of HOME BUSINESS……..like it was something hideously disgusting and worthless. The wind gradually leaked out of my sails for years.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was and still am my daughter’s biggest cheerleader and supporter……no matter where her interests lie. Truly. We have actually laughed about this over the years and I always roll my eyes and say that I…….the one who always HATED gym class or any other athletic -type pursuits…….find it so INCREDIBLE that I would have a “jock” for a daughter.  She was never aware of the depth of my fear that she would enter adulthood not knowing how to sew on a button or prepare a meal or hem a pair of pants. I managed to keep that on the ‘down-low’, for the most part.

Fast forward to present day…….today, as a matter of fact.  A magnificent white steed named Patience thundered into my “corral” and on his mighty back he carried Validation and Affirmation……my heart didn’t quite know how to handle these unexpected but  welcome arrivals.  Yesterday after all the gift exchanging typical of Christmas Day, my daughter informed me that she would, after all, like to take me up on my offer of gifting her with my old but still very good sewing machine. So, we brought it down out of storage and she actually sat and asked me to teach her step-by-step how to thread it and perform some basic functions with it. Oh how my heart thrilled. Today, she called me several times on her way to, during, and after a big visit to JoAnn Fabrics to share with me how extremely EXCITED she is to start sewing!!  She even FaceTimed me to show me something she had made after she got home with all her fun fabric choices. She was more excited than I’ve heard her in a long time. She and her husband are well into the adoption process and are actively waiting to be matched with a baby and she is so thrilled to be learning how to sew some things for her own baby. As a mother, I can surely relate, as we do many things for our children that we may have never done before.  As a mother, my very old dreams for her are slowly coming to fruition. While in college, she learned to crochet and started to make the most lovely dishcloths that she started giving as gifts.  Since she got married, she has started taking a very serious interest in cooking and plans her supper menus a week in advance. She tries new recipes frequently……just like her old mom used to love to do back in the day. And now……she’s excited to learn how to sew.!!……my heart is full…..my cup runneth over.  Maybe all that hard work wasn’t in vain after all.  Life is funny. Sometimes when you least expect it….or, when it happens little by little so slowly that you don’t really notice it, dreams and things hoped for come ‘full circle’ and your “role model ticket” gets punched…….validated……at last.

Drivers …..

Driving has become a large part of my life. My new job requires me to make home visits as far south as the “wilderness” surrounding Frazeysburg in Knox county to the Shelby area in northern Richland county…..and all points in between. So, I’m on the road a lot. Whereas for the last 11 years I had a more scenic and slower paced commute on the pretty backroads of our area, I now travel up Rt. 60 and then Rt.30 over to Ontario to the office every morning. Not as scenic or stress-free.  I was never a fan of “freeway” driving to begin with but now with cruise control and such it does have it’s time-related merits. However, I fear it is not good for my blood pressure. It would appear that the rudest, most inconsiderate drivers have also chosen this particular route and amazingly seem to also be on the road at the same time  I am! I normally do not express my feelings of anger or frustration openly in front of the general public….because I HATE confrontation. Yes, I’m quite sure my sister’s eyes right now are rolling back so far that she really does have “eyes in the back of her head”…….as well as my daughter’s… who many years ago witnessed my EPIC meltdown while attempting to transfer a homemade raw pizza onto a pizza stone in my oven………..  a majorly unsuccessful and memorable event that we now laughingly refer to as the “Homemade Pizza moment” and use it as a reference for various events to describe their EXTREME level of frustration. But, as you know we are all usually different around our families than we are otherwise and I stress the fact that to the general public and my friends I never reveal this little “pop-up gremlin” of sorts. But, as you all know, many drivers in our midst believe there is some sort of amazing substance inside the windows and windshields of our cars that render us all invisible as we drive to and fro…….as evidenced by those folks who can be seen “drilling” their noses or “waving” with just their middle fingers. Unless, of course, they just don’t care if they are seen……a concept foreign to me.  Well, my car came without the “invisible forcefield” so I’m not engaging in either of those but I AM verbally “filleting”…..for my ears only…. those cretins who either pass me, only to then cut right back in front of me wayyyyy too close OR those who ride my tail closer than a cowboy rides a bull!!  Either one drives me NUTS!!!  When I got my new car back in the summer, it has a feature that once you set the cruise control, IT then determines how close you should get to the car in front of you. So, for instance, if I set my cruise for a certain speed on Rt.30 and someone passes and cuts in front of me, the blasted car will instantly start to brake all on its’ own in order to allow the distance that IT feels there should be between us. And that just irritates the snot out of me! Now I’m a good driver and I am always good about keeping a safe distance but since the roads are just full of these people who apparently cannot find it in themselves to respect “your space” on the road, I had to disable this feature for the sake of my own health and sanity. Same goes for people who tail me. Oh I try to ignore you and avoid looking in my rearview mirror in hopes you will give it up and go around….but, 9 times out of 10 that’s not how it works. I’ll never understand it though. Did no one teach you that you need to stay back……..as I learned in Driver’s Ed back in the ‘dark ages’ it’s supposed to be 1 car length for every 10 miles per hour that ya’ll are going…??!! I’m no math prodigy but by my calculations, unless you’re driving a foot-long hotdog to work, you are too darn close!!  Granted, I don’t always leave the exact distance myself but I do NOT tail too close either.  Oh the thoughts running through my head as I look in my mirror and see your mug closer than I’d ever want to……unless, of course your Tom Selleck…..and then, I guess it would sort of be ok. I’m imagining all the things I would do if I had some sort of fantastically equipped “James Bond car”.  I have said for years I wish I had a dashboard full of buttons I could press at such times….buttons that could pop up a big sign in my rear window that says “Back Off Jerk”! Or a button that would release a big spray of water or oil or nails or the BEST and obviously safest option would be a button that, when pressed, would release a big, invisible cloud of the most vile, repugnant odor you could ever imagine…..basically a car that farts!!!   Oh if wishes could come true……

So, if you and I are driving on the same stretch of road and you either tail me or cut me off…no, I will not give you the finger or show any other outward signs of aggression….other than perhaps a frosty look as you pass or after you pass, if you look closely in your mirror….or at most if totally ticked off, I may throw my hands up in the air at the total incredulity of your apparent stupidity . But mostly, if you see my lips moving, you can bet I’m talking about YOU…….and it’s NOT good!!!

Update – December 2017

My “voice” in the writing world has been pretty silent for awhile now; I have spent no time with pen to paper. My heart and mind is occupied elsewhere at this time of year. I am very sorry to have to say that the holidays ceased being a time of blissful happiness and cheer for me ……about 6 years ago when the unthinkable…my husband leaving…. happened and I became single again after 24 years of marriage. Two Christmases later we had to put my beloved mother in the nursing home because dementia had stolen her from us. She’s still there….languishing…..and that truly breaks my heart….especially at the holidays when memories surface of all the wonderful years prior, when she was “whole” and happy. For my sister and I there was NO BETTER best friend than our Mom. She was “there” for us 24/7, 365 every single day of our lives. No matter what the problem or issue was, you could go to her and she would listen and you would come away feeling like everything was going to be OK. I miss that SO. VERY. MUCH.  Because no matter how old we get, we still have “issues” and worries and things that we don’t always know how to handle and there is just nothing to compare to your mother…. an older and “seasoned” person who has already walked the path…… one who loves you completely and unconditionally…..to talk to and receive guidance from at these times in life. My mother was a musician and every single day of my life, until I left for college at 18, began with her playing the piano and singing early in the morning, often while we were still in bed. This time of year she played every Christmas song known to man. Music and a most heavenly soprano voice was her gift and she used it as such. As is often the case with parents and children, music, then, became my life…..more so than I even realized until many many years later……as her gift started to fade. Music at our church growing up was HUGE and mom was an equally huge part of it. She was always in the church choir and probably sang hundreds if not thousands of solos in her lifetime. She was always part of the “special music” too, like the annual Christmas cantatas which always ended with the magnificent Hallelujah Chorus. I could hear her beautiful voice above all the others during ALL of these events and now that she no longer can sing, I can’t listen to anything like this without STILL hearing her voice in my mind. She never said “no” when asked to sing and therefore could be found sharing her gift in so many venues from weddings to singing Christmas carols in the “big house” at Malabar Farm. She also loved to go caroling, especially at the nursing homes where she often visited people who didn’t have anyone coming to see them. Music and my mom are inseparable in my mind. And so it is that whenever I hear the music of Christmas, no matter the venue, it immediately takes me to my mom and her current “plight” and the silencing of her wonderful gift…….and my heart just breaks yet again and the tears flow. My daughter has received the same gift and on the rare occasions that I get to hear her sing, I can’t help but think how very very proud and happy my mom would be to know that her granddaughter has picked up the torch that unwillingly slipped from her hands,  and is running with it.

Losing my mom has been more of a gradual process. Last year, though, we then lost Dad too. He had always been healthy and active and a real lively “straight shooter”. Having to put Mom in the home devastated him. He began the descent into loneliness and depression no matter what we did to try to help. It killed him……literally, I believe….to see Mom in there and to be without her at home. This past year without him has literally been the worst in my entire life……..worse than going through Stage IV cancer and almost dying when I had a toddler to raise……worse than going through divorce and all the many struggles that it brought on. He was my “earthly” rock……the one I always looked to for approval….the one who sat on a special “pedestal” that only fit him. There hasn’t been a single day that I have not thought of him since. Oh I’m not moaning around and crying every day, all day or anything like that. But, there are so many things that I will suddenly encounter in the course of a day that instantly remind me of him………something I remember him talking about, something he would have loved hearing about, but mostly things that occur in my new job and life in general that I would like to share with him and ask his advice on. Driving in my car in silence is the worst and most prevalent time for these thoughts to pop into my head. I suspect that is why, for the first several months after he died, I had to have music playing loudly the whole time I drove….and not the tender acoustic guitar songs or the warm fuzzy stuff like The Carpenters or The Isaacs. No, it had to be much harder stuff……to drown out any other thoughts of Dad that might surface.  I had been doing much better with this and had much more peace….but now the holidays are here and I remember once again all the good times we used to have and how very much I miss him.

I share all this, not for any condolences or pity, because in my day to day life you wouldn’t even notice this grief I’ve been carrying…..I hide it well. Well, …that’s not exactly true now is it…..as evidenced by the extra pounds I had lost finding their way back home and increasing the width of my “caboose” once again. Old coping mechanisms die hard.  But other than that, I’m the “giggle puss” laughing hysterically at the comical stories and antics of my friends and coworkers. I’m usually very fun to be around. But I guess my writing is where I allow my heart to truly open up and process this grief more fully.  It’s a catharsis of sorts for me. For instance, I’ve now been working on this post for over two hours….bawling my eyes out over the first half and now as I’m “over the hump” I’m already feeling so much better. And strangely enough, when I sat down to write, I had no intention of even writing about this.  My goal this morning was simply to share that I have come up with some ways to try to “coerce” myself into writing more frequently, because I truly enjoy it so much but am often silenced because I seem to always feel like I have to write some BIG memoir or essay on something really important…..and quite frankly, that is just not always achievable in my schedule or my mind.  So, I had a brainstorm during my lunch hour on Friday …. before I put my seat back and took my daily little “power nap”. I decided that I need to start a couple new “categories” for my blog…..ones that I can bring my love for humor into more quickly and easily and one where I can maybe just blow off some steam about common little life events….parts of our daily journeys that we all have….. hopefully in a funny way….or at least a way that others can also identify with.  So with that I bring you “Daily Tidbits” and “Rants/Pet Peeves” ……coming to the pages of my “patchwork” blog.

In closing this post, I would just like to reiterate that the holidays are a uniquely emotional and painful time of the year for many who have had losses or major life changes. I never realized that as clearly as I do now that I have had my own losses and major life changes. So, it’s a very good time to be extra kind, extra thoughtful and perhaps extra purposeful in your efforts to relate to and help your fellow man at this time of the year. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

Passion … Part 1

Passion.  What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  Ok …yes, there’s THAT … but today I’m talking about a totally different type of feverish excitement about something.  Not surprisingly, Webster lists 5 different definitions for the word “passion”.  For the purposes of this particular article, however, I’m referring to “a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept”.  Recently, in one of my many moments of introspection, I asked myself just exactly what things in this life of mine am I truly passionate about?  I wasn’t looking for things I like or have a passing interest in — that list would be a mile long.  My search was for something that catches more of my attention and evokes much more emotion than say, cherry cordial ice cream.  Oh don’t get me wrong, on the rare occasions I violate my “no-dairy” policy for that lucious sweet treat, I’m feeling pretty passionate and emotional …. although not half as much as I do an hour or so later!  No, what I came up with are things that go much deeper into my soul and live very close to my heart.  I will share these in a series, hence, “Part 1” in my title.  Today’s passion:  Music, specifically marching bands.

There is nothing on this planet that gets my blood pumping and all my senses on high alert quite like a good marching band. I take that back……finding a giant wolf spider in my pile of towels and a snake above me on my patio also did a pretty good job of that! But…I digress..  I am so NOT kidding when I tell you that it is often a “caffeine stunt double” for me.  Yep … you heard me.  I can no longer do coffee, sadly, so for those mornings when my tail is dragging slower than molasses in January, if I take my fantastically powerful bluetooth speaker into the bathroom and crank out some of my favorite marching band tunes while I’m in the shower, I am seriously just as jacked as I would be with two cups of Joe … minus the jitters!

My love affair with marching bands started when I was a child.  My parents put me in majorette lessons when I was in 4th or 5th grade. Of course, as you know, majorettes don’t just bebop down the street twirling their batons sans music. No, they are part of a band … a marching band.  Now back in my day, there was THE high school band and the 7th & 8th grade – junior high- band, when it came to bands that marched in local parades and such.  I did the ‘twirling’ gig with several other girls for a year or two but it really didn’t do a lot for me.  What DID set my pants on fire, though, was being up close and personal with the band … especially the percussion section.  The booming bass and the precision and ‘snap’ of those snare drums and the seemingly effortless “machismo” of the male drummers just made me feel alive like nothing else.  I can still remember vividly, marching a few rows behind Patty (Wendling) Shannon, her dark braids swaying, and thinking how very cool she looked playing her snare….and how cool it would be to do the same myself.  Also, unbeknownst to anyone on the planet up to this very moment, I had a secret schoolgirl crush on Danny Robinson because he too seemed to master that wonderful instrument with a self-assured cockiness that caught the eye of my shy, mild-mannered self.  At this point, they were in the high school band and I wasn’t even in the junior high band quite yet.  But the spark landed and lit and the flame has only grown brighter over the years.

Once kids get into high school, they often fall into a particular group or ‘clique’ … you know, the “hoods”, as we called them, the “jocks”, the “popular” kids; usually composed of the jocks and cheerleaders, the “academic or smart” kids, the band geeks, etc. etc.  I was a ‘combo’ kid … I ‘rode the fence’ between groups because I was very academic, placing 9th out of 135 in the GPA standings but I was not outgoing and did not possess the financial resources or wardrobe of the “popular kids”.  The group I did fit into, however, lock stock & barrel, was the “band geeks” and that is where I “lived” throughout high school.

I have so many fond memories of marching out onto a football field to the rhythm of our drum cadence in the crisp fall air and feeling such excitement and pride as the crowd cheered enthusiastically after each song we performed.  Similarly, there is nothing quite like being all ‘duded’ up in your uniform and marching in a parade. It’s exhilarating!

The very pinnacle of my “band life” came in 1978 when I was heading into my senior year.  I was honored to be chosen to be in the 300 member All-Ohio State Fair Band.  This was a rather elite band composed of high school students from all over the state of Ohio and directed by Mr. Omar Blackman from Cleveland, who kindly and masterfully directed this band for 28 years.  We lived in dorms on the fairgrounds for 18 days during the Ohio State Fair.  Having only been away from home to church camp once in my young life heretofore, this was quite the experience for me, especially being the introvert that I was back then.  We slept in bunk beds in a building without air-conditioning or fans … in August.  We practiced and practiced. We made new friends…and practiced some more.  But, oh was all that practicing SO worth it! We sounded magnificent by the time the fair started!  We were each issued 2 red, white & blue polyester knit jumpsuits plus a red scarf for around our sweaty necks.  Let me tell you, those #$!* jumpsuits were hotter than Hades out there marching around the fairgrounds under the August sun!  We performed all over the grounds, ‘schlepping’ our instrument in one hand and our chair in the other.  The crowds loved us .. and we loved THAT.  For me, personally, though, nothing prior to nor after — in my musical life that is — could begin to compare to our nightly performance in the coliseum.  Oh the crowds went wild! Just imagine the commanding sound of a 300 piece band in the enclosed coliseum as they perform a multitude of different pieces but always ending with our beautiful national anthem.  But, for me, the “top shelf” event of each and every day and for the entire duration of that experience was our march OUT of the coliseum as we made our way back to the dorms. We played the “National Emblem March” and to this very day, 40 years later, I can vividly picture in my mind how we sounded and how it felt to march out to such a mighty and powerful song.  I was fortunate to be just in front of our very impressive row of 22 tubas and remember precisely where I was each night when the magnificent tuba part arrived in that song.  People clapped and cheered as we marched by.  Oh … the exhilaration of that moment  repeats itself each and every time I hear that song to this very day!

As high school was drawing to a close, I had set my sights on the nursing program at Ohio State as well as on “The Best Dam Band In The Land” or TBDBITL, as they are affectionately known. Despite them being an all-brass band and me playing a very non-brass clarinet, I still had every hope of becoming a member. So much so that my parents even purchased a used trumpet so that I could somehow learn how to play it in order to fulfill my greatest desire at that point in my young life.  However, it was not meant to be. My studies and nursing clinicals turned out to be so completely time-consuming that there just wasn’t any ‘wiggle-room’ left for the time commitment required of the band members, not to mention somehow also squeezing in trumpet lessons.  Oh, the heartbreak of reality. The painful first of many.

And so I evolved into more of a ‘spectator of music rather than a participant and performer. Being a spectator, however, can have a lot of perks though too. Imagine my supreme pleasure at watching my one and only child, Rachel, become the Field Commander for the high school band. I got to ‘relive’ my band days as her dad and I became very active band parents and went to every single game for 4 years. We watched our petite little “dynamo”, dressed in her cute sequined outfit, with great pride as she led the band with more heart and spunk than we could have ever imagined. What a wonderful experience for all of us as a family.

I may not be in a band anymore but I still LOVE music in almost all its’ forms. I still love to play the piano now and then, for my own enjoyment, and have hopes of someday becoming ‘fluent’ in harmonica.  But nothing comes close to the thrill of being in a marching band or watching a good one in person.  About that singular pleasure, I am truly and extremely passionate.

Starting Over …

How many times in your life have you had to completely start over with something? It’s not an easy or quick task is it.  Over a span of time, we often get ourselves into a ‘smooth groove’ that becomes our personal definition of ‘normal’ …our comfort zone.  When forces, big or small, known or unknown, come together in such a way as to pull us out of that ‘groove’ and plop us into foreign territory, it can be scary and painful.

I’ve been an RN for 34 years.  There’s a lot of diversity in this field which can take you into a multitude of varied practice areas.  Right out of the ‘chute’ in 1983, I worked on a very intense pediatric unit starting IV’s in thread-sized scalp and hand veins on itty bitty babies and toddlers.  From there I went to a multi-speciality clinic where I loved traveling every day between 4 different satellite offices in and around Columbus working with both a pediatrician and an orthopedic surgeon.  I had the unenviable job of poking the tender little heels of countless precious newborns, amidst much crying, by baby and mama, in order to acquire blood for required testing.  I also stood by and assisted my other boss while he performed many gruesome tasks such as removing toenails and setting broken bones — both extremely high on the Richter scale of pain.  He also taught me to remove casts with that terrifying electric cast saw, which, thankfully I mastered, leaving all my patient’s limbs intact.

I went on to work in nursing homes, doctor’s offices and for a while I was a chemotherapy nurse, mixing and administering IV chemotherapy to those doing battle with the big “C”.  This job in particular was one of the most rewarding and yet rather surreal and uniquely painful, as it brought back constant reminders of my own near-death experience with the big “C” several years prior .

For the last 11 years, I did public health nursing, working in several different capacities over the course of each week — senior citizen/community outreach, school nursing and STD investigations.  For the most part, I loved it…especially working with Seniors. It was my “smooth groove”, my comfort zone.  There are unfortunate times, however, when those who control your ‘work life’ really don’t care about you — what you love to do, what you excel at, what value you bring to the table.  Regardless of your well-honed experience and wisdom in your areas of expertise, there may come a time when a newcomer on the scene … a younger, fresher model indeed, but devoid of the priceless knowledge and wisdom gained from years in the trenches … is suddenly given preference and you may find yourself cast aside … without discussion or warning … to merely fill a spot for a body … any body.  Putting and/or keeping employees in positions they enjoy and excel at — matching their unique skill-set to the job — is a win-win situation…for the employee as well as the employer.  To most it just seems like common sense. But, as we all know, common sense is a flower that does NOT grow in everyone’s garden. Your years of loyalty, your desires, your uniquely developed skills are scraped off the plate and into the trash like last night’s leftovers.  What do you do?  If you think things may turn around at some point and change for the better, you may decide to stick it out and put all your money on ‘hope’.  If, instead, you’ve seen this pattern over and over and know in your heart the likelihood of things getting any better is dismal, at best … you may feel the need to climb up out of your comfy ‘smooth groove’, mentally kicking and screaming all the way, and move on … starting over somewhere else.

This is where I find myself … starting over … 34 years later … at 56.  Definitely NOT what I thought I’d be doing at this point in my life and career.  Starting over in not only a new job but a job that involves only a small percentage of “nursing” combined with a much larger percentage of “social work”.  In other words, basically a total career change.  Six weeks in and the ‘honeymoon’ period of training and orientation are fast morphing into the real “meat and potatoes” of the job.  A huge portion of my new gig involves COPIOUS amounts of time spent on the computer trying to learn new skills in the tedious documentation of everything I do when I’m working out ‘in the field’.  When I leave at the end of the day, my vision is so blurry I can’t make out faces of people I pass during a quick stop at the store on the way home.  I am by no means stupid, but I am truly finding it harder to learn new things at this point in my life than ever before.  I don’t like that feeling.  I don’t like being unsure about how to do things.  I don’t like having to bother other people in order to ask for help figuring out these new things.  I don’t like feeling overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities and deadlines to meet.  Knowledge is power and I don’t like not yet totally knowing how to do my job  because it makes me feel powerless.  I don’t like green eggs and ham, said Sam-I-am!

I was reading the work of a fellow WordPress blogger this morning and stumbled upon a quote that pretty much describes — to a “T”– the way I’ve always tended to feel when I don’t have a good grasp of the task at hand.

” I was paralyzed by the journey of 1000 miles rather than animated by the

single step in front of me.”          – Andrea Badgley, “Butterfly Mind”

In my at-home, off-the-clock life, if I feel too overwhelmed by too many things calling for my attention, it tends to ‘paralyze’ rather than motivate me.  I just ‘fold’ and don’t do any of it.  I’ll lose myself in a good book instead or watch something funny and mindless on TV.  Obviously, though, I can’t do that at work.  No matter how overwhelming and stressful things are, you still have to keep going and find a way to get through it all.  This is where my faith is supposed to kick in … and it does … when I ALLOW it to and force myself to rely on Him to help me and to calm me instead of trying to shoulder all of my worries and responsibilities by myself.  My biggest problem is that I am an “Indian-giver”.  For you younger readers who might not be familiar with that phrase, an Indian-giver is someone who gives a gift but then takes it back.  I will pray and fervently ask the Lord to help me with specific tasks and issues and the associated anxieties about them and for a very short amount of time I am semi-successful at “releasing them” to His expert care, which then greatly reduces my mental burden.  I feel so much better and my world goes from black and white to technicolor as I suddenly see His loving fingerprints on everything in my life. But then little by little I take back those thoughts and worries that I had surrendered to Him.  Shame on me, for He alone is the Master handler of any and all problems … the Healer of all wounds.  I don’t have any tattoos and never will, but if I were to, I would put something of that nature right on the back of my hand to remind me every minute of every day that He wants me to give Him ALL the worry and anxiety of any and all problems that are weighing me down. To remind me that he was physically tortured on a cross for the sole purpose of relieving me of those types of unnecessary burdens. To LEAVE them with Him once I surrender them over.  We all have struggles in different areas — this is one of mine.

I tend to be a ‘bottom-line’ person. With certain issues or situations, I get lost in excessive instructions or directions and find myself mentally yelling, “Please just cut to the chase… give me the bottom line!”  So, here it is.  Starting over is HARD …. very hard.  But, I remind myself that it can be done. I did it 6 years ago after divorce and I can do it again with a career change now.  I WILL tough it out … I WILL soldier on through the rain and dark clouds to the other side where it is warm and sunny and I WILL see the beautiful little treasures that He has hidden along the rocky path, for me and me alone, to find.  But I must remember to let Him be my hiking buddy, as He is the ONLY one who knows which one of the many possible paths is the RIGHT one to get me through the storms safely.