Monday, December 28, 2009

My Other Miracle

I don’t use these words lightly. And, although I’ll be blogging more about the new grandchild Gwendolynn and the pure magic of my being present during her delivery, that’s not the only gift I’ve received lately. I’ve been blessed by the arrival of another granddaughter, a true delight.

She’s almost sixteen. I haven’t seen her since she was an infant, although occasionally I’d get a school picture. There has been, well let’s just say “strife” between my son, who is her father, and this girl’s mom. And I’ve kind of been waiting in the shadows for something to be resolved, waiting all these years to meet her, for one of her parents to bring her to my door. She lives with her mom. I’m not one to rock any boats, especially for children. Don’t laugh, but I can be very, very patient when it comes to not disrupting the lives of others. And so I waited until I felt the time would be right to connect with her.

And isn’t it marvelous that there’s this thing called Facebook? I was able to introduce myself to her via Facebook, didn’t have to wait for her mom or her dad or anyone else to decide she could meet the rest of her family. I just sent her a message….Hi, let me tell you about your grandmother, do you want to get to know each other? And then this miracle happened – she wrote me back!! Again and again and again.

My granddaughter (I am cautious about using her name or posting her picture as I don’t want her mother to be rattled….trust me, she is drop dead gorgeous….) and I have so much in common. She knits! I so wish I’d been the one to teach her, as my grandmothers taught me, but I’ll have time to teach her patterns and finishing and stuff down the road. She loves music and art…we share a favorite artist (Georgia O’Keefe). As I was going to the library the other night, she was texting me books she thought I should read…..and they were books I actually WANTED to read! She’s an animal lover, too. And yesterday she told me she had a migraine. That’s something we have in common that I wish we didn’t….but still….it’s amazing to me. She types to me in complete sentences, is smart, has a sense of humor and manners.

I can’t wait to meet her face to face. When my son texted me to tell me the baby was coming, I immediately got a text from her that read: Nana! Nana! Nana! Did my dad tell you the baby is coming today!

She seems perfect in every way. I know she won’t be: after all, she’s my son’s daughter. But I can’t wait to meet her. I look forward to hearing from her every day….and she’s so good about communicating in some way every day. She’s lifted me up. She’s my miracle granddaughter.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Look What Santa Brought Me!!!!!!!!!

Gwendolynn Mary Kotas

Born 12:24 pm on 12/24/09 at Lourdes Hospital, Binghamton

to Katie Downes and Darek Kotas (my son)

7 lbs, 1 oz, 20 inches....perfectly healthy

I had the absolute honor of assisting Katie through her natural was one of the, if not THE highlight of my life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This Week's Playlist

And not a Christmas song upon it....

Love at the Five and Dime.... Nanci Griffith
Yellow Coat.... Steve Goodman
The Old Laughing Lady.... Neil Young
Turnstyled, Junkpiled ....Townes VanZandt
Woman of Heart and Mind.... Joni Mitchell
Man Under the Bridge.... Mark Zane
Outside Woman Blues.... Cream
Bring It On Home to Me ....Animals
Time Has Come Today.... Chamber Brothers
Drive South ....John Hiatt
She Belongs to Me.... Bob Dylan
Essence.... Lucinda Williams
Who Knows Where the Time Goes ....Eva Cassidy
See Here, She Said.... Kate Wolf
Out Behind the Gypsy’s ....Tom Paxton
Panama Limited.... Tom Rush
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness ....John Prine
Universal Soldier.... Buffy St. Marie
I Don’t Need It To Rain ....Tim Buckley
Expecting to Fly ....Buffalo Springfield
I Like to Sleep Late in the Morning..... David Bromberg
Strange Weather.... Tom Waits
Kings and Queens.... Loudon Wainwright III
Traveling Soldier.... Dixie Chicks
Houston...... Mary Chapin Carpenter

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rocking at Creekside Books and Coffee

I lived in Skaneateles until I was seven. My grandparents lived there until I was a teenager. In many ways, it’s still “home” to me. So it was with great pleasure that we drove there Saturday night to hear Mark Zane and Friends perform at Creekside Books and Coffee (about a block from our house on W. Austin Street, almost in the spot where I broke my arm when I fell off the handlebars of my brother’s bike when we were racing to catch the ice cream cups the guy on the train threw at us every Friday when the train passed through town…..ah, the good old days.)

Of course I bought a book – Knit One, Bead Too – and enjoyed a delicious chicken curry wrap before settling down to hear Mark and the gang play. It seemed like a full house there listening to him perform. I wish I’d gone up to the second story there in the café as I was having trouble hearing him. Being familiar with his songs was helpful. I love hearing Mary Snell sing, and Mark invited her on stage for a couple of songs. I couldn’t hear her belt it out on “Pink House” as I have in the past….I love it when she does that and the goose bumps raise up on my arms. Next time we go there, I’ll be sure to get a better seat. I love hearing these two sing together.

Paul Marconi sat in with Mark, too. I had an easier time hearing his harmonica, when he played. He seemed to be having trouble with them. That was too bad. When he did play, his additions were perfect. I wanted to hear more of Mr. Marconi. (I know, I can call you “Paul”, but I like saying “Mr. Marconi”.)

Jim Bob and Mark did another rousing rendition of “Country Roads” and Jim Lewis added his voice to Christmas carols. It’s always heartwarming to see Mark share his love of music with others. This show was yet another wonderful performance. We left humming “Hambone” and “Ruby” wishing we had his “American Hunger” CD with us….we should probably purchase another copy of the CD to keep in the car.

This pic…hubby took it on his cell phone…shows Mary Snell, Steve Pederson (we could hear his bass fine…and that was an added pleasure, for sure!), Mark Zane, and Paul Marconi and I wish I could remember what song they were playing but I don’t. It might be their cover of Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World” but I’m not sure.

Anyway…thanks Mark Zane and Friends for another amazing evening in my “home” town!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Why I Love My Neighborhood

Vultures among the reindeer.....only on Hawley-Green. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Missing Out

Yesterday I missed my Wednesday lunch at Sugarpearl listening to Mark Zane play his lovely tunes. Last night I missed the ladies of song playing at Sparky's. Today I will not be able to wander over to Sugarpearl to hear Joanne Perry strum her guitar and sing of lost loves and heartbreak and I could use a dose of that today. But it's simply not possible. There's too much pain to manage.

I've had my fair share of emotional pain. My mother was an alcoholic, I was raised by my father (not my biological dad, but he was the best part of my life ever) and stayed with him after they divorced, I married and divorced an alcoholic, had two children, a brilliant and talented boy who even at 37 continues to be challenging and a delightful girl who was my haven of sanity until she turned 30 and decided she no longer needed me and removed herself -- and my granddaughter -- from my life. I watched my father wrestle with a long illness and the aunt who was my mother substitute do the same. I survived several lousy relationships before finding the safety of Chris.

Add to that the whirlwind of the human resources world I worked in at the time where other people problems were dumped upon me to help solve and where I caused some problems myself, especially when I had to have those "we're going to let you go" talks.

Yes, I've had my share of emotional pain. But I learned to cope. I wrote a ton of lousy poems, and a couple of pretty good ones too. And I got through most everything as well as any human being could. I didn't lose my nickname of "Sunshine" and could still find the good thing in any situation.

BUT......(you knew there was a "but" there, didn't you?)......for over one solid year now I have been living in constant physical pain. My shoulder, although considerably better, still smarts, will never return to what is normal for most folks. Even though I'm able to knit and type again, it's not without some pain. And the leg pain I have....well, it doesn't seem as if that's going away any time soon either. I have not had a pain free day since....well, I can't even remember. And I can't do the things I used to do to distract me when emotional stuff was bringing me down......cook something elaborate for dinner, bake something scrumptious for dessert, put on music and dance like a fool, take Rupert for a long walk. That all involves standing and/or walking. And there's just too much pain when I do that.

Write some poetry, you say? soon as I figure out some good rhymes for the only word that escapes my lips these know, the one they still bleep out on television? The rhymes I come up with: duck, truck, buck....well, maybe I'll end up with a country song or something. Let me go work on that and stop whining.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I missed writers group yesterday. At 9:15 AM I crawled out from beneath the covers and called Mary Ellen to tell her I wouldn't make our 9:30 meeting. I just couldn't do it. There was no good reason. I'd gone out to dinner with a gang of former co-workers I refer to as "The Olive Garden" girls the night uneventful dinner, home early....but I could not sleep afterwards and had gone downstairs and watched TV until 3:30 AM or so. If you know me, you'd know that watching television is a last resort for me, especially that time of day/night. That should have been my first clue.

I typically experience what I've referred to in the past as my "meltdown" in February, when it seems as if winter has lasted a snowflake too long and there's nothing to look forward to and everyone else around me is grouchy, too. This year it slammed into me last weekend when the temperatures dropped suddenly and the ice drizzled in, when I packed away my Plowshares stuff and put my knitting needles to rest awhile, when my leg pain returned full throttle and it seemed impossible to get warm again, when I tossed a poetry manuscript in the trash feeling it was pure putrid paltry pukey....well, you get it. Nothing's working for me at the moment. Not even the comfort of sleep.

I'd read two of the pieces we were supposed to critique for the meeting yesterday the night before and something happened that never, ever happens to me: I had absolutely no opinion of either piece. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No reaction to typos, a tense out of place, a "this is great dialogue" or "you could find a better word here". Nothing. No reaction to more of the antics of Jeffrey and Ethel as they arrive in Romania on their search for lost ancestors, a story I've been reading of Jeffrey's for over two years now and am quite fond of and anxious to see come to its conclusion; I always relish Jeffrey's lively story telling. No reaction to Vince's new story about Lila who goes to the beauty parlor that serves as a morgue, too; it was only words on paper, nothing else, although I had so looked forward to this idea we'd discussed in Sparky's a few weeks ago coming to life with Vince's special flair in creating characters that make you want to laugh out loud. And Mary Ellen had written nine new poems.

I'd submitted a very short story about a drive-by shooting I'd dashed off to get rid of some of my anger (read prior posts if you're wondering about that) so it wasn't that I hadn't contributed in that way to the group. I just knew that I could not be "there". Because I don't know where I am.

All I can manage to do these days is scoop up the dog's poop and put a meal on the table. I've even stopped making the bed....because I'm usually crawling back into it. It's the only place I can be warm for even a moment.

And it's only December.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What If?

Hubby has hooked our turntable and cassette player up to this laptop and is in the process of turning our LPs and cassette tapes into least the ones we haven't already purchased as CDs. It's kind of a slow process, but he's having fun doing it. I've been sitting in a rocking chair nearby and reading while he's spread out here in the music room working on this project. He has headphones on while he does it, but every once in a while he sings along and I chuckle.

This weekend I found three tapes my brother made, one while he was in college and two when his sons were very young. On these tapes he sings some Loudon Wainwright, old John Prine, and several tunes he wrote himself. It's difficult to tell his songs from the others. Hubby kept asking, "Who wrote this one?" I felt really proud to say, "Al did." These gems were every bit as good as the excellent songs we hear at the Songwriters Woodshed every month or others we hear about town.

We decided to make a CD for Al's December birthday of his "greatest hits" from these tapes I had found and spent the afternoon doing just that.....including a rousing version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm with my nephews singing back-up. He'll love it. I even found an old photo of him with his long, hippie hair to put on the CD cover. (Don't worry about the secret being out.....he never reads this blog.....too busy following the sports world as he's the sports editor of a newspaper these days and my blog doesn't interest him.)

One original song of Al's, written about the lake we spent our summers splashing around in, made me cry, even though I've heard it often, though not in several years. As I listened to Al's songs, most written in the early 1970's, I could not help but wonder what path his life might have taken if he had not inherited all those "take responsibility seriously" genes. He has the voice, he knows his way around a guitar and can twist words into songs you'll want to hear again. Sports and music were his loves. I used to call him "Super Jock" and he's made a good, steady life for himself out of his love for sports. Sometimes I fear it's too steady.

Still, when I listened to these songs, particularly the one about Skaneateles Lake, and hear him sing "where I wrote all my early songs".....I had to wonder, might he have wanted to pursue a life in music, keep on writing his songs, playing his music? Does he have moments in his life now when he picks up his guitar and strums it and can't help but ask himself, "What if?"

Thursday, December 3, 2009


This weekend is the annual Plowshares Craft Fair and Peace Festival sponsored by the Syracuse Peace Council. I have a booth there, the only place I sell my hand knit and/or crocheted creations. All week I've been putting price tags on the hats, fingerless mittens, scarves, baby booties, purses, sweaters, etc. that I knit on the camper deck or in Chincoteague or other places we have traveled to over the year. As I pull something from a storage box, I remember a conversation I might have had as I was knitting, the sunshine that day, what music I was listening to. That's been the fun part of the rather tedious process of deciding how much something might be worth: if it was up to me, I'd give it all away.

No rag rugs will be at my booth this year. When I first started, twelve years ago, I only sold rag rugs that were made from all the work clothes I had ripped up and made into rugs after losing my job due to a merger. I sold out that year, and last year I again sold out all my rugs. A shoulder injury earlier in the year made it impossible to make any rugs this year to sell; the ones I did manage to make went for a housewarming gift for Mary Ellen and a thank you gift for hubby's work associate who loaned us his beach house in Chincoteague for vacation. This will be disappointing to those who know me as "the rug lady" at the craft fair, but maybe they'll like some of the new items I'm making.

This festival is our holiday. We don't celebrate the holidays in the traditional manner, not following any conventional religion and not immersing ourselves in the frenzy of holiday shopping. We will enjoy seeing the other vendors at this festival we usually only see once a year and bartering them, we will welcome the customers who return every year to see what I'm making now, because each year it's something different as everything is one-of-a-kind, and we will end up making new friends, too.

I'm tired. It's a lot to get ready. But I'm excited, too. It will all be over by Sunday night. And then I'll be feeling like the little kid who waited so long for Santa Claus and is either thrilled that he brought her exactly the right gift or disappointed.........ah, somethings never change, no matter how old we get.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Too Much

I should know better.

Shortly before 3:oo AM, I got out of bed after tossing and turning for an hour or so. I kept thinking about the items I still had priced for this weekend's craft fair, redesigning my booth in my head, remembering I had to update my computer inventory. So I got up and started working on it.

Then I emailed my writing group and bowed out of our meeting later today. I think I've missed one meeting in the three years we've been meeting, but I know I'll be too tired to be fair about critiquing their work, or too darn ornery to take any criticism of my work nicely.

And I'm scheduled to do a poetry reading at tomorrow night, too. After dinner with some former co-workers I haven't seen in awhile. What was I thinking?

In my head when I was asked if I could do something and I heard the date, I just said, "Yes, that's before Plowshares (the name of the craft fair, the only one I do each year.) I can do that." But it all seems to fall into this week, when I am impossibly busy.

And if there's anything I've learned in these glory days of being "retired" it's that it is perfectly acceptable to say "NO" sometimes.

It's tough admitting I am no longer Super Woman able to juggle a dozen balls at once and never a hair out of place. If I'm honest with myself, I probably never was. There's always something that has to give. And I'm no longer willing to let the important things health, my marriage. writing group today, possibly no poetry reading for me tomorrow, no dinner with old friends, no going to hear Mark Zane play at Sugarpearl, no OCC Songwriters Showcase this week as I finish up all those little details to get ready for the weekend I both dread and cherish. Ha, it only took me 57 years to prioritize. Imagine that.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Recently an old friend from high school read my blog, surprised that I so freely expressed my feelings. It made me realize how much I’d changed. Thankfully.

I’m reminded of that today, still reeling from the drive-by shooting in our neighborhood and the varied reactions, particularly when I hear things said such as “I can’t tell my children about this,” or “I hope the press doesn’t report this.”

It reminds me of my mother saying “What happens in this house stays in this house.” I’m sure I’m not the only child of an alcoholic that heard something similar on a daily basis.

As an adult I learned that secrets hurt, that healing comes with telling. Perhaps that’s why I keep no secrets, at least about myself. I’m a pro at keeping those of others because I began keeping my mother’s at such an early age.

Our writing group has pledged to work on short stories to submit by January 15th and I’ve been struggling with this. Not because I don’t like writing short stories; I’ve several under my belt. I just couldn’t think of anything new I wanted to write about. I brought nothing to our last meeting and have been beating myself up about it.

This morning I wrote a short story about the drive-by shooting. And I sent it to a couple of folks NOT in the writers group to critique because I thought I couldn’t take it to the group. Why? Well, one member of the group lives in the house next to where the shooting happened and basically wants to forget it happened and get on with her life (her choice and I respect that) and another member of the group belongs to a neighborhood association group that tends to look the other way when crime issues rear up. And I address that tendency in the story, not necessarily in a subtle manner. I did not wish to offend.

However, I’m having second thoughts now. It feels too much as though I’m protecting my alcoholic mother all over again by not telling what’s really happening. I need to stay an adult. I’ve worked too hard to become one.

So, I’m telling.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Ruin of The Day

Yesterday might have been the perfect day.

In between laundry, dog walking and sundry household chores, I enjoyed meeting hubby for lunch at Sugarpearl and being serenaded by Mark Zane who plays there every Wednesday from 11:00 – 2:00. (Joanne Perry plays on Thursdays, Brian Francis every Friday.) I encourage you to grab lunch and listen to them play for you. The food is great and you’ll wish you had a two-hour lunch break once you start listening to the music.

After dinner I enjoyed an evening with the ladies of song at Sparkytown: Melissa’s original “Here In Me” (it was BETTER than a Mary Chapin Carpenter tune); Jo’s delightful rendition of Loudon Wainwright’s “Hotel Blues”; Joanne’s original “From Here Ever After” (a song I can personally never hear enough of, it’s sooo good); Donna’s “Beautiful Mistake” I heard for the first time but will always remember and long to hear again and again; Judy’s cover of one of my favorite Richard Thompson’s songs, “Wall of Death”; and Wendy – who always pulls a surprise out of her bag – marvelously working her way through “Downtown” and getting Sparky to dance. It was the perfect way to end a day. I felt so peaceful and relaxed, ready to settle in with my book, Rupert and Chris, get a good night’s sleep.

“You might want to call Mary Ellen,” hubby said to me when I walked in the door.

I didn’t think this was so odd. My friend and fellow writer used to live a few houses down our street but recently bought the house that sits almost directly behind ours. I went into the kitchen to see if lights were still on in her kitchen, to see if she’d still be up, not really hearing what Chris said next, the words not really registering with me. Perhaps I didn’t want them to register.

“There was a drive by shooting. Someone tried to get Stephen. No one was hurt though.”

Stephen is the neighborhood bully. He lives in the house next to Mary Ellen. When she was first looking at the house, being neighborly she waved to him in his upstairs window; he exposed himself to her. I have kicked him out of our yard on several occasions and called the police twice, once resulting in his arrest. Less than a month ago the police staged a stake out in our driveway waiting for Stephen to return so they could arrest him on some outstanding warrants. The neighborhood breathes more easily when he is in jail; he never seems to stay in jail very long, though. We know he’s around when we hear firecrackers at midnight. In fact, Mary Ellen thought the four shots fired at Stephen sitting on his front porch last night were more firecrackers he was setting off. One of those bullets is lodged in the house, very close to Mary Ellen’s house, very close to the alley she and I walk down several times a week as we go back and forth to each other’s house for writing group or whatever.

I couldn’t sleep last night. And I really needed to, as I’ve been exhausting myself lately. When I’m exhausted, my words take longer to surface and other health concerns take center stage.

If my daughter was speaking to me, she’d begin one of her famous rants about how unsafe my neighborhood is and I’d have nothing to say in return this morning. Even my mother-in-law’s house that sits in what I’ve always considered a glorified “trailer park” housing development with no sidewalks looks good to me today. Rupert is still burrowed beneath the covers of the bed and hasn’t been out for his morning walk. Is he trying to tell me something?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Voices In My Head

I can't hear the voices that usually talk to me when I'm doing dishes or walking the dog or folding laundry. This isn't a good thing. The voices I hear are good voices -- not the kind that tell you to go out and shoot your neighbors. Mine are the voices of the characters in the piece I'm writing: Mariah, Kaylyn, Eliot, Nash, Louisa and Albert to name a few of them. And they are all silent at the moment.

I can't get Kaylyn and her boyfriend off the sofa in Mariah's apartment in Manhattan. They're stuck there. I don't know where they go next. They haven't "told" me. I can't seem to get them to tell me.

Maybe going to my writing group this morning will help. I'd really like to go to the bus station instead and buy a ticket to New York City, spend a day wandering around imagining all the things my characters might want to do, and then come home again. I'm certain I'd know what to write then. But....that's not going to happen anytime soon. Because there's dishes to do and a dog to walk and laundry to fold. And if those voices would just come back, it'd all be so much easier to handle.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What I'm Listening to This Week.....

White Winos…Loudon Wainwright III
Dear Mary….Linda Thompson
Hate It Here…Wilco
Watershed…Indigo Girls
Won’t Give In…The Finn Brothers
Killing the Blues….Allison Krause
Wayfaring Stranger…Peter, Paul and Mary
Up the Devil’s Pay….Old 97’s
Sailing to Philadelphia…Mark Knopfler/James Taylor
In China or a Woman’s Heart…Kate Wolf
Song for Adam…Jackson Browne
As Cool As I Am…Dar Williams
Goodbye Earl…Dixie Chicks
Galway to Graceland…Plainsong
After You’re Gone…Iris DeMent
Going Home…Mark Zane
The Coming of the Snow…Rod MacDonald
Half A Million Miles…The Kennedys
My City of Ruins…Bruce Springsteen
Family…Dar Williams
Some Days You Gotta Dance…Dixie Chicks
Our Town…Iris DeMent
Walk Away…Dust Poets
Girl With the Weight of the World in Her Hands…Indigo Girls
Under the Fallen Sky…Jackson Browne
Sound of Your Voice…Barenaked Ladies
Cowboy Man…Lyle Lovett
Grey Street…Dave Matthews Band
Play Some Skynryd…John Eddie
Invisible People…Peter, Paul, and Mary
Give Me Back My Country…The Kennedys
Anyway…The Roches
Stop the War…Rod MacDonald
Some Walls…Peter, Paul and Mary
Make A Wish…Mark Zane
Homeless…Loudon Wainwright III
Muddy Roads…Kate Wolf
Everybody Knows…Dixie Chicks

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Words and Music Songwriters Showcase at Jazz Central - 11/13/09

Ah, what a Friday the 13th! Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers hosting with Sean Patrick Taylor, Gavan Duffy and Mikey Powell.

I sat next to Mikey Powell’s grandmother and his mother sat beside her. We chatted quite a bit, about Mikey’s migraine and how pale he looked, about songwriting and poetry and the usual stuff folks talk about when they’re meeting for the first time. Grandma was a delight, so proud to be there to hear Mikey play. I was excited to hear him, too, having fallen in love with his song “Old Picture Frames” that gets some air play on Blue Moon Café, a local radio show I listen to on Sunday mornings. His lyrics are pure poetry. I was certain his performance would be magical, and I wasn’t disappointed. His songwriting style reminded me so much of John Prine, I was not at all surprised when he ended his show by singing a cover of Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”. It was wonderful that this youngster is able to pay homage to Mr. Prine by writing songs equally as appealing. (Hubby and I will be going to see John Prine play at the State Theatre in Ithaca in February….my anniversary present….can’t wait.)

Sean Patrick Taylor, a musician I had not seen before, played some interesting tunes as part of the first set, sharing the stage with Jeffrey and Gavan. Jeffrey did many of his songs that I absolutely love….I’ll get the titles wrong and that’s not fair to him so I won’t attempt to name them...other than “Fly”. I love his song about humming his way back home, about being a dog for a day, and of course the one where he plays a wooden box and sings about that sycamore tree. Every time I see Jeffrey play I am reminded of what a fine musician he is in addition to writing amazing lyrics.

But I have to be honest here….and if you were in the audience, wouldn’t you agree with me? Gavan Duffy stole the show, folks. Even though he was nervous – he told us all about not having performed in front of a live audience for several decades – once he found his way into his first song, he had us all caught up in his words and rhythm. “Last Call for Alcohol” was a rip-roaring success….it was begging to become a sing-a-long, but I think the audience was too absorbed in listening to what the next verse was going to be about to sing along. I could have listened to Gavan play all night. I hope he’ll do more gigs like this in the future.

It was a grand time, a lot of musicians supporting other musicians, superb words and music in an inviting venue. Check it out sometime. You’ll leave humming a song you haven’t heard before that will stay with you long into the night.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Knocked Out

I should be writing about the delightful concert Dana "Short Order" Cooke and his friends -- Chris Weiss, Judy Stanton, Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers and Wendy Ramsay -- performed last Friday night at Onatavia Church just outside LaFayatte as part of their First Friday concert series.

Or telling you about the amazing lunchtime sessions Joanne Perry has been doing the last two Thursdays at Sugarpearl Espresso Bar and Lounge.

But I'm still recovering from nights of no sleep and obsessive worry about our sick dog. I know, he's only a dog, but you know, Rupert's like a child to us, the one that Chris and I really should have had.

Rupert is a survivor. He's actually named for my favorite participant on the television reality show "Survivor"...we met that Rupert in Central Park one day quite accidentally. Our Rupert was the sole surviving puppy from a litter of eleven; the rest had died of parvovirus. For the most part, Rupert has been a healthy, happy dog, suffering from mild asthma in the summer which limits his Frisbee catching on hot, humid days. He is eager to please, extremely intelligent and a loyal companion.

Last Saturday morning he began vomiting shortly after our morning walk. This is the only accident he ever has inside, and that's very rare. We thought he might have had a little bit of a cold, went about our day. And then around ten o'clock that evening the diarrhea began. Hubby slept through most of it. I walked up and down Green Street every hour or so with Rupert as he relieved himself, thankful that it wasn't snowing or raining or bone cold. This continued all day Sunday and again all through Sunday night.

By Monday morning I didn't know my name. Hubby came home from work early and made me go to bed and he took over the poop detail. Poor Rupert was at the point then where he was no longer squatting outside; he just sat down and let go. I was cooking rice and chicken to replace his usual dog food but Rupert had stopped eating and drinking completely. On Tuesday a repairman was here to do some work on our roof and Rupert did not even lift his head from the bed when this man was running around on the roof outside the bedroom window.

A trip to the vets led to Rupert having fluids pumped in via IV and a bunch of meds administered. Our vet at Shop City Animal Hospital, Heather Danboise, is the best I've ever seen, and she gave Rupert the usual tender loving care. He even kept his tail at a slow wag while she had the thermometer shoved up his butt. It's as if he knows she makes him feel better.

He's on the mend. His eyes are bright again, his fur soft to touch, his bark back when someone rings the doorbell. He's eating and brings me the ball to toss, and I'm happy to stop writing and toss it for him today.

Another time I'll write about some of the other stuff going on. But today, I'm glad that Rupert is doing well and that I have a cold nose butting against my elbow as I type this. I'm going to go play now.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Torch Songs and Porch Songs: November Songwriters Woodshed

Even though it was a smaller group than usual gathering for the November Songwriters Woodshed at Sparkytown on Tuesday night, the songs presented didn’t disappoint. If I didn’t know better, however, I’d have said there had been a theme for the evening, as four of the seven songs presented were about lost loves. And two of the songs took place on porches.

The first of what I’m calling “torch songs” was titled “A Thousand Times a Day” and the first lines about wanting to be just friends drew me in. After the relationship ends, the singer only thinks about the lost love “a thousand times a day”. It was nice to have Dana contribute a song. In my opinion, he needs to do this more often; it adds polish to his critique of others when he presents his own work to them in return.

“I’m On the Rebound” was a very nice change from mostly folk melodies and I long to see Wendy perform this one on stage; her energy can make this one special. Chris’s song (not my hubby, another Chris) about autumn and a photo on the wall reminding the singer of a lost love generated a bit of conversation regarding the meaning of “water under the bridge” and what that represented, although I felt several of us got it the first time. I don’t remember the title of this piece and do not have the lyrics to look back at today; however, the song has stayed with me.

Sometimes there is a division of the sexes in the room after a song is done that is vividly apparent; you can almost see it in the air. The men do not understand the lyrics written by a woman sometimes. It’s not a matter of intelligence, it’s more genetics, I believe. One such lyric last night that I found magical that had some of the guys shaking their head was from a song called “From Here Ever After” written by Joanne: Did I know my own skin? (I always love it when I turn to hubby and ask if he understood it and he paraphrases back my understanding of it; that’s why he’s my husband and I love him bunches.) Sometimes it’s not about the story; it’s about the emotion of the song.

A quirky song from Tom, a newcomer to the group, about lawn decorations, “Exterior Decorator”, made me chuckle but needed a little more work. It was easy to picture the yard he was describing.

Songs that seem transparent on the surface but may not be so simple appeal greatly to me, and I think we may have heard one in “Don’t Be No Fool”, written by Gavan, a musician that intimidates me by his memorable rhymes and guitar picking. I often ask myself “what’s he really saying?” It’s always a delight to hear his latest work, even if I can’t figure it out. Maybe we’re not supposed to.

And that leads me to my favorite of the night, one of the “porch” songs. This song, currently titled “Vacherie, Louisiana”, paints a portrait of a moment in time. For me, the song was a lonely man that life was passing by until someone stopped to take his picture and made him feel important for a minute. No one else saw it that way, and that’s ok. There were lots of other interpretations. And isn’t that the way a really good song should reach us? Shouldn’t it keep us thinking, keep us wondering, keep us rolling the words around in our heads, humming the tune? I loved it.

Thanks again, gang, for the tunes, for the way you inspire without even being aware of it. Sparky, I hope the music never truly dies at Sparkytown because it belongs there. See you all next month!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Woods, Writing and Politics

My writing group went on a retreat yesterday, meeting at the camp of one of our members, an hour’s drive away. It was a glorious fall day and we were all welcoming the break from our usual routine. We settled into comfy chairs around a wood stove, pulled out the pieces we’re currently working on and took our turns reading and offering critique. I swear our words sounded more elegant out there in the woods, our critique more concise, our ideas more sound….this environment suited us all just fine!

The “camp” is a spacious house, sprawling across grounds that include several other little buildings such as lean-tos and a gazebo. I could easily picture myself sitting in that gazebo and finishing a poem. There’s plenty of room – inside and out – to gather together OR to find that quiet time that writers need so much. We can’t wait to figure out a time when we can all go back there again, maybe for a longer stretch of time. We know our words will flow there.

As usual, we enjoyed lunch together, too….and talk turned to politics. We had a mayoral election yesterday. It was particularly painful for us, as someone we know was a candidate for the party many of us support. Some of us were finding it difficult to support this particular candidate, however, and had not voted for her in the primary. At lunch time none of us had yet voted; we were still conflicted on how we were going to vote and even IF we were going to vote. We had a rather spirited conversation, weighing the pros and cons of the other candidates. I was even considering casting a write-in vote for one of the members of our group! I loved our conversation; we've learned how to disagree agreeably. It was heavenly.

I did end up voting. I was more terrified of Grandma Priscilla’s rage from the grave haunting me if I did not exercise my right to vote – one she worked so hard to earn for women, as she once was unable to cast her vote herself – that I did not choose to ignore this election in protest as one member of my writing group did, and as I, too, was tempted to do. I did something else that even this morning I cannot believe I did, and those of you who know me well will laugh or cringe or think it may be time to do some kind of intervention when I tell you what I did indeed do in that voting booth: I pulled the lever and voted for a Conservative Republican candidate. (He lost.) I know. I almost can’t believe it myself. Still, I think he was the better candidate. It is the first time in my life I have strayed from the Democratic ticket. I hope it is the last. This guilt is almost too much to carry.

But at least I voted.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Family Affair...Arlo Guthrie Comes to Town

My brother Alan gave hubby and me an early Christmas gift last evening: tickets to see Arlo Guthrie and Family perform at the Center for the Arts in Homer, NY.

What a wonderful evening! Arlo, his son, three daughters, a son-in-law and several grandchildren sang songs various members of the Guthrie family had written, including several Woody Guthrie songs. What fun they had on stage! How proud Arlo was of his offspring singing a song they had written or playing a guitar -- there's no way the pride on his face could have been faked. In true folk style, this family was sharing tradition with the audience, in almost perfect harmony, sharing stories of how the songs came about and what it's like to live within the swirl of a family like the Guthries. What it was like was right there on all their faces, especially at the end when they sang "This Land is Your Land", certainly a song they've all heard a zillion and two times...yet they sang it for us as if it was fresh off the presses and they love singing it, you can tell. Their smiles sparkled and their voices entranced. We all left that lovely little church that's been converted into an art center with smiles on our faces, peace in our hearts.

I kept thinking that my brother, a talented writer and musician, should have been born into the Guthrie family.

Thanks, Alan. It was the perfect gift, one to be long remembered and cherished.

Friday, October 30, 2009

It Could Have Been Rupert.....

I like to cry when I eat spicy foods, watch chick flicks or read beautifully written novels, NOT when I read about police busting down doors of innocent people’s homes resulting in a dog getting out and run over by a car and killed. The police thought the dog was guarding drugs or guns, believing the barking to be that of a pit bull; it was a Pomeranian. They were responding to a “possible shots fired” call. We get those often in my neighborhood, though it’s usually only the yahoos behind us on Gertrude Street setting off fireworks.

This bothers me greatly, as many of you may understand, as Rupert is part Lab, part pit bull. If you ring our door bell – even if he knows you well – the first thirty seconds of your visit to our house, you may wonder if you want to step inside our door. Of course, once he knows it’s you, all is fine. But if that same group of police officers had come to our door and heard Rupert, he’d never have had the chance to escape – I’m certain he’d have been shot dead the first time he showed them his teeth.

Rupert never once destroyed a sock, a shoe or even one of his own toys as a puppy. He’s never been a destructive dog. Protective, yes. Once we came home and the curtain that hangs on the half window of our back door was on the floor and many items on a bookshelf we have near that door were also on the floor. We know that someone had tried to break in our house and Rupert scared them away. He did his job. Now every time I set a pan on my hanging pot and pan holder over my sink, he starts barking and howling – I believe the scratching sound the pots make going on the hooks is what he heard at that back door by our kitchen when someone tried to break in. He would scare me, if I didn’t know what a sweet dog he truly is.

I’d like to think that we know the police who patrol our streets well enough for something like this to never happen to us, but I’m really not that confident. Just last month I called 911. I was out walking Rupert and witnessed four young men orchestrate an ambush of a woman pushing a child in a stroller. Another woman walking with these men proceeded to beat the daylights out of this woman on the hood of a car parked on Green Street while the baby cried in the stroller and the men stood by and cheered. Here’s how the 911 call went:

“Do they have any weapons?”
“I don’t know.”
“Does anyone need medical attention?”
“I don’t know.”
“We can’t send anyone to the scene unless there are weapons or someone needs medical attention, ma’am.”

OK. I guess next time I should lie and say “shots fired” and then make sure I lock Rupert up in the basement.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tea with the Ladies of Song

I left the house last night expecting to host an Open Mic Poetry Night at Sugarpearl and found out they'd changed it to the first Wednesday of the month instead of every Wednesday (yeah!) and had forgotten to tell me. No big deal. I called a friend who had mentioned she might be coming and gave her the update, pulled some poetry I was editing from my bag, ordered a cup of tea and settled in at a table for some quiet time. At the very least, I knew I could enjoy the company of the Sugarpearl staff and edit my work without Rupert's cold doggy nose butting up against my arm, his way of trying to convince me that throwing the ball would be more fun than rearranging words on paper. If I was lucky, Joanne would arrive, we'd have tea and a nice friendly chat on a chilly evening. It can't get much better than that.

And then the door opened and there was a familiar face. It was Judy, a very talented musician I always enjoy listening to at the Woodshed. I'd never seen her at Sugarpearl, but everyone else in the world loves coffee, so why shouldn't she stop in for a cup on a chilly Wednesday night? Or was she there for the poetry reading? Yes. She was going to listen to me read. I was shocked. Humbled. OK, let's be honest. I was absolutely terrified. Her lyrics often make me gasp, they are so good. I was so relieved the event had been cancelled, so I could get used to the idea of having her in a future audience. She ordered coffee and we had a delightful chat, got to know each other a little bit. I'm still in awe of her talent.

I'm always surprised when people show up to hear me read. Joanne did indeed arrive, and then Wendy came, too! These two ladies often delight me with their music. I love hearing them strum their guitars and play the songs they've written, often dealing with situations in their lives that are heartfelt. They make you feel their pain, take you right to the moment. I try to do that with my poetry, too. I feel a connection with them. I never tire of listening to them and hope to never bore them, either. They honor me when they offer such support.

We had a nice little chat about various things. I'm definitely the outsider, yet it does not matter. I have such respect for their talent and the way they blend their passion for words and music into their lives. They always inspire me. And I do look forward to actually reading for them sometime soon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Going Back To Bed

Ssssh. Don't tell anybody.

It was raining this morning. Pouring. We walked Rupert as usual. Chris drove off to work, I dried Rupert off and he curled up in the Barcalounger for his morning nap. I went upstairs, took off my soaking wet socks and the sweat pants I'd worn for the walk because the pant legs were soaked and had made my way into the bedroom to make up the bed and start my day.

The flannel sheets welcomed me back, my pillows still bunched up from too short a night's sleep....AND....the bed was empty....hubby safe at work and the hairy beast snoozing away downstairs. It was still dark and dreary outside. No emails demanded response. Denise is working today, Mary Ellen and Jeffrey are out of town, the mother-in-law staying in her end of town today, I could wait awhile before printing out poetry for the Open Mic tonight and any household chores can certainly wait.

I climbed back between those sheets, something I'm not usually inclined to do, as I'm one who has a difficult time napping. I stretched out and enjoyed the full width of the bed, not my usual position of nearly hanging off the edge as hubby likes the middle of the bed and Rupert often sleeps between us. And I fell fast asleep, had a lovely dream about a circus in Afghanistan, not surprising as I'm re-reading The Kite Runner and Water for Elephants currently.

But I'm feeling a little bit guilty for indulging in this rainy morning pleasure.

So, don't tell anyone, ok?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Looking Back

In a waiting room today I overhead a woman telling a teenager to enjoy herself now because these were the best days of her life. I literally wanted to puke. Or take that teenager aside and tell her the truth.

I’m not one to want to look back on what others might refer to as “good old days” very often. To begin with, those days simply weren’t all that good then and certainly don’t seem that way to me now. I don’t understand the “life was so much simpler then” comments I sometimes hear from others, accompanied by deep sighs of contentment. I guess their bowl of cherries came without any pits.

The truth is, I’d much rather look forward. I think today is one of the best days I’ll ever have, and that tomorrow is going to be even better. I’ve been that way too many years to even think about. And I hope I stay that way, no matter how many times someone calls me Pollyanna.

That’s not to say that I never do look back, because sometimes I do. And I’m often puzzled by the tricks memory plays on us, how people can remember events so differently. I think we’re wise to hold our memories up to the light and reflect on choices made. When I do that, I always find myself happy with whatever path I ended up taking, because each path led me to exactly where I am today, which is exactly where I want to be, and I could not be happier to be here.

I’d tell that teenager to learn to trust her own instincts, assure her that she’ll know when she’s happy and what the best days of her life are, she won’t need anyone else to tell her, just give it time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mark Zane and Friends at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse

What a shame folks in Cortland spent a rainy Friday night huddled beneath umbrellas at football games instead of sitting inside the cozy Blue Frog Coffeehouse listening to Mark Zane and Friends play. Those of us delighting in the tasty goods at the Blue Frog were treated to a fantastic show by Mark accompanied by Steve Pederson’s masterful bass and Frankie Diamond’s enticing electric guitar along with harmonica riffs courtesy of Paul Marconi and magical vocal harmonies tendered by Mary Snell.

These musicians worked so well together under Mark’s gentle guidance, one would never know they didn’t play together every night of the week. Perhaps they should; they have a certain chemistry that was a pleasure to witness. Mark is the most generous musician I’ve seen in a long time, and when he invited Jim Bob up on stage to sing “Country Roads” with him, the magic only Mark can work came to life once again. You had to be there to see it unfold. I could never find the right words to explain it. Next time, come in from the rain, sit a spell, listen and see it for yourself. It’s well worth your time.

Mark played many of his original tunes from his American Hunger CD and some from his “next” CD, one that cannot be released any time too soon for me, for these songs are amazing and I want them playing in my office as I write. I especially love his newest anthem to this wife, “I Got a Woman”. His tribute to one of my favorite Arthur Miller plays, called “Me and the Devil”, is becoming hard to forget, too. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again: his lyrics force you to think about a situation, long after he’s played his last note. He doesn’t tell you how to think, he just reminds you that there’s more than one way to look at anything.

The Friends helped play some toe-tapping cover songs, too, by Springsteen, the Moody Blues, Dylan, and Neil Young. Paul and Frankie did a fine job on some Townes VanZandt tunes. But I have to say my favorite of the evening was a cover of song by White Lion called “When the Children Cry.” I had never heard this song before, probably because I was too busy during the time period it was first recorded NOT listening to the music my kids played back then. Mary Snell did the singing and Mark played guitar while sitting on a stool beside her. Their performance was riveting, Mary’s vocals quickly quieting the room, drawing you into the song and insisting you hang on her every word. Mark’s guitar playing gave you a glimpse into his metal-playing past and sounded as if the entire band was backing Mary at times. Listening to them, you couldn’t help but forget everything and anything around you. There was only the song, only that moment.

How rare that kind of moment is, yet there it was, at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse, on a windy, rainy Friday night, when Mark Zane and his Friends took the stage. I was so happy to have been in the audience for such a special performance. Thanks to all who made it possible!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Birthday Greetings

Yesterday would have been my father's 78th birthday.

I can no longer pick up the phone and wish him a happy birthday or drive over to spend the day with him.

I spent the day furiously vacuuming my house, dusting the cobwebs away, scrubbing the counter tops, putting all our clutter of the week away.

My grief spills over still.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Knit Wit on Green Street

We're still taking pictures and I'm trying to get them to "work" on a new blog....but if you want to see some of the creations I'll be taking to Plowshares in December, check out my other blog...Knit Wit on Green Street. (You can access it from my profile.)


We had lunch this week with a friend from out of town who loves to go to one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood. She's been in the swirl of a merger at her place of employment. After more than twenty years with her company, she's hoping to hold on to the job she once loved dearly, having gone above and beyond to bring success to both herself and her company.

I've been watching from the sidelines as this drama has played out, knowing too much from the human resources world. All I could do was rework a resume for her and try to make her see the writing on the wall. A number of times she would ask me, "Doesn't loyalty count?" I never had a good answer; it was a question I wrestled with too often myself as the value of an employee's loyalty has seemed to diminish in the work world. Many who grew up believing you'd always have a job if you showed up every day and gave 110% still ended up being downsized.

Our friend likes going to this neighborhood spot because the waitress is so wonderful....bubbly, willing to make substitutions with a smile, never forgets that we're in a hurry and need a receipt for the meal, always has something funny to tell us and makes us feel at home. She's a huge draw for the place, runs a Trivia night and we were anxious to know when the next night would be. Our friend was wondering if she'd be in town when they had the next Trivia night; our waitress said she hadn't figured out when she'd be having it yet but she'd be sure to let us know. This was said with the usual huge smile and our conversation switched from trouble in the workplace to how nice it would be to work in a small place like this restaurant.

And then the check was delivered to us, by our waitress, who had come back into the room a totally different person. I noticed she was holding back tears. She said, quite calmly, "I just wanted you to know that I will not be hosting Trivia night. My hours have just been cut so a family member of the owner can have more hours here." And she walked away.

"See? It's everywhere!" our friend having employment issues exclaimed.

I was proud of the waitress for handling herself so professionally. And very annoyed at the owner of this restaurant for several reasons. To begin with, this kind of news should NEVER be delivered in the middle of noon-time rush. The quality of this waitress shone through because she stayed and continued her job with grace when she could have thrown a temper tantrum and turned your quaint little dining room into who-knows-what. More importantly, she's done a TON to grow your business, and now your partner, who folks like but who certainly is not a waitress, will be hard pressed to keep up the pace.

I understand financial concerns lead to necessary decisions that are no doubt difficult to make. But it leads me back to that question that keeps floating around in my head that never has a good answer. "Doesn't loyalty count?" I think this waitress deserved better.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Turner to Cezanne

Last Friday hubby took the afternoon off and we went to the Everson Museum's exhibit of fifty-three masterpieces from the National Museum of Wales. This exhibit will be here until January. If you live in Syracuse, find the time to go see it. Even the young man who yelled at me (yes, truly "yelled") for being too close to the paintings couldn't spoil my absolute joy in seeing this collection. (And, young can't really appreciate the pencil lines in Turner's astounding watercolors unless you look up close.....I'm old and can't see much with my bifocals.....give me a break.)

One of the few happy childhood memories I hold dear is that of sprawling on the living room floor or my mother's bed with her art books surrounding us. My mother would carefully flip through pages until she found the painting she wished to "review" with me that particular day and then she'd tell me about the technique the artist used or tell me stories about the artist's life. I learned as I grew older that some of what she told me was fiction fueled by alcohol, but much of it was based on her knowledge and love of art.

And there at the Everson were many of the very paintings we had studied: "The Good Samaritan"; "La Parisienne"; "The Conversation". As I wandered the rooms, VanGogh, Millet, Renoir, Manet, Pissaro, Bonnard, Meissonier, Daumier all "spoke" to me, inviting me into their lives, as they had when I was a child full of dreams of living in Paris and writing poetry, a dream I have not yet let go.

Then I saw Claude Monet's "Waterlilies", well positioned and nicely lit on a back wall. My mother loved these paintings most of all and had told me how he had fashioned his own pond in his backyard so he wouldn't have to leave his house to paint them. I had always wondered if this was true or not....and there on the plaque near this painting were words describing how he tended to the lily ponds on his property. It brought tears to my eyes....not only to view the astounding beauty of the painting.....but to realize, once again, that sometimes truth could be found in my mother's words.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This Week's Playlist...

Man Under the Bridge....Mark Zane
Hate It Here....Wilco
Did She Jump....Richard/Linda Thompson
Goodbye Earl....Dixie Chicks
Give Me Back My Country...The Kennedys
Empire State....Dana "Short Order" Cooke
The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square...Willie Nile
Bethlehem...Mark Zane
Galway to Graceland....Plainsong
The Married Men...The Roches
When I Was Young...The Animals
Outrageous...Paul Simon
Dimming of the Day...The Five Blind Boys of Alabama
If I Ever Leave This World Alive....Flogging Molly
Firecracker....Wailin' Jennys
Sound of Your Voice...Barenaked Ladies
When the Spell is Broken...Bonnie Raitt
In My Life...Judy Collins
Last Tears....Indigo Girls
Long Walk Home...Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When Did People Get So Mean?

I’m not one to keep my mouth shut when it comes to politics, as many of you know. If I was someone who dwelled on labels, I’d have several attached to me that might indeed raise fear and loathing in others: green, tree hugger, pro-choice, feminist, and….here it comes……liberal.

I’m not against paying taxes. I just wish there were boxes on my tax return I could check so I could say how I wanted my money spent: “yes” on making our schools better and “no” on weapons of any kind, for example. I still like Jerry Brown’s flat tax idea.

Have we forgotten that almost all of us are the offspring of immigrants? My grandfather was sent to America because he lived too close to the battles of the Catholics and Protestants in the United Kingdom. He took easily to farm work, became a successful dairy farmer, came to own several dairy farms. Was it easier for him because his accent was not so difficult to understand and his skin color light?

As a consumer of healthcare services and one who worked in healthcare for twenty years, guess what folks? The system needs fixing. Desperately. It’s too late even. We’re already paying the price for those who have gone too long without healthcare.

So where is this rant leading? Lately I have been bombarded with emails bashing President Obama and his policies. I’ve deleted many, asked to be excluded from lists, even called a cousin and tried to have a conversation about why such emails frighten me, especially the ones that appear to be extremely racist and full of incendiary language and information that simply isn’t factual.

Many of these emails dwell on what our founding fathers envisioned for our country, except for one huge omission: the separation of church and state. Those patriots founded a new nation based on the principal that everyone was free to practice the religion of their choice, after living in an environment where one religion was the expected, accepted way of life. They knew from experience this did not work; thus, separation of church and state.

Emails I’ve received lately imply that the only “good” American is a Christian. I have to wonder if “good” may also mean “white”. My outrage is tempered by my sorrow, my fear.

“Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Roman 13.9)

I wonder why I never see that in any of these emails.

Monday, October 5, 2009


"Make new friends, but keep the is silver, but the other gold" Here's some of my "gold".

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What I'm Knitting....

Mittens out of sock yarn
A funky scarf

An earflap hat
Fingerless mittens

A beret....

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mark Zane and Friends at the Red and White Cafe

Mark Zane and Frankie Diamond played Saturday night at the Red and White Cafe.

The Red and White Cafe, DeRuyter, NY....check it out, it's a great place to go!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Updated Playlist

When I begin a new project (or start getting ready for my annual Plowshares exhibit of my handknit goods) I start burning CDs to help me get through it. Here's what's on my latest playlist:

I'm Not Ready to Play Nice....Dixie Chicks
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)...Dylan
Casualty Officer...Mark Zane
50 Miles of Elbow Room...Iris DeMent
I Married A Magician....Dust Poets
If I Should Fall Behind...Bruce Springstein
Whistlin' Past the Graveyard...Tom Waits
Motherland...Natalie Merchant
Yellow Coat...Steve Goodman
Watershed....Indigo Girls
In the Winter....Janis Ian
Splendid Isolation...Warren Zevon
Chelsea Avenue....Patti Scialfa
Flying Shoes....Lyle Lovett
Sailing to Philadelphia...Mark Knopfler
Stranger Song...Leonard Cohen
Joy...Lucinda Williams
Perfectly Good Guitar...John Hyatt
On With The Song...Mary Chapin Carpenter
Bone in My Ear...Bruce Cockburn
Free Man in Paris...Joni Mitchell
Have Hope...Mark Zane
Evening Ride...Donna Colton
I Don't Know Anything...Marc Ryan
Sam Stone...John Prine

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words?

this is why I never took a road test....

Forest Lake

Where Rupert and I would like to be walking again this morning....

Monday, September 21, 2009


When I stopped working, one of the things I promised myself was that I would surround myself only with people I really liked, who shared the same passions I did, whose politics matched mine most of the time and who I could be with without having to bite my tongue or filter my thoughts when I was around them.

For the most part, I've been successful in my mission. I spend most of my free time with artistic people who understand that staring into space for an hour trying to come up with the perfect word to rhyme with "mustard" is not to be considered a total waste of my time. It's quite refreshing. Occasionally someone will make a comment that I'm too much of a Pollyanna, still too liberal for my own good, or some such thing that I can usually smile away. Differences are okay with's what makes the world go around and I embrace them.

But not when differences become mean-spirited and just plain nasty. I have two dear cousins I don't see often who choose to communicate with me via email...mostly forwarded jokes. I once thought this was a waste of time, but, hey, it's still keeping in touch, and that's better than losing track of them completely. Or so I'd told myself. They're family, after all. I've noticed over the last year, however, that their emails have become much less humorous and much more political in nature. I read some, just deleted some based on the subject line, even dashed off a couple of emails to them asking them not to send this kind of stuff to me, reminding them that I'd been a liberal Democratic too long and they were not about to convert me now.

This morning I deleted 22 -- yes, 22 -- emails all aimed at convincing me that we're doomed to live in a socialist society, that I'll die before I get an operation I need, that all my freedom is being taken away because troops are coming home, etc.....and believe me, the words I've just typed are extremely tame compared to the language found within these emails that are full of language I can only call nasty, combative, racist, and, what's most alarming of all to me, just plain ignorant.

I'll admit I do tend to look at the glass as half filled. I do look for the good in people. I often give folks the benefit of the doubt. I trust. Sometimes it doesn't work out. But I still have faith in President Obama. He's only had a short period of time to undo mistakes that were made over a very long period of time. I wish more people would take the time to listen, to suggest alternative ideas instead of slinging arrows.

If we wish to be outraged at something, why are we not screaming about the reporter who spent nine months in jail for throwing his boot at then President Bush....he missed him.....while Dick Cheney, certainly responsible for the torture of human off giving speeches and being honored here and there. Certainly this is more unsettling than someone working hard to try to fix our health care system.

I still have hope I'm not alone in feeling this way.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Enchanted Evening Listening to the Women Sing

I know. I said I wouldn’t attend a gathering that was exclusive. But, hey, I’m a woman, exercising my right to change my mind. And I’ve had several lines of a poem I’m revising rattling around in my head that begins “sister songs, so full of grace”, so I felt an almost urgent need to be within a group of women singer- songwriters, hoping to be inspired to find a way out of that poem.

Their gathering in no way mirrors the Songwriters Woodshed, and that was a nice contrast for me. They take turns playing their own material or whatever else they wish to play. Others play along, add harmony. I so wished I’d learned to play guitar or could carry a tune. At times it was damn near painful only being able to sit there and tap my foot.

It was a delight to hear some songs by songwriters I was not familiar with as I am not fond of listening to the radio. Once I stopped working, buying CDs became one of the vices given up and the library’s selection of music is…well….pedestrian at best. I enjoyed hearing some “new” voices, at least for me.

I hadn’t expected to be taken down two very emotional memory lanes with their music that left me rattled far into the night.

Eugenia played and sang so beautifully in Spanish, reminding me of the month so very long ago….in 1988, in what seems now like another lifetime for me….when I lived in Bolivia for a month as part of my job then. Tony, Kathy and I would sneak out of our quarters at night and wander down side streets we’d been told not to go on to listen to local music. I was instantly taken back to LaPaz when Eugenia strummed her guitar, wondering what had happened to those two old friends and the others who had been with us on that trip. Was the gentleman who crafted one of my silver bracelets still making his amazing jewelry in his tiny little shed? Was his donkey still as ornery? Did it still smell so green there? How was it possible I’d done all that? And why did I not remember more of the Spanish I’d had to learn to exist in those lush surroundings? Why had I never made it back there?

And Jo sang a rendition of Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”. She did it in honor of someone she knew who had passed away. I’d never heard it done as a song. I know the poem by heart though. It was Grandma Thelma’s favorite. I recited this poem at her funeral, the first eulogy I was asked to do. I was in my twenties then and foolish enough to believe that this would be the only eulogy I’d ever have to deliver.

I thoroughly enjoyed Joanne’s version of my all-time favorite Lucinda William’s song “Essence” and thank Melissa for playing Mary Chapin Carpenter’s haunting “Grand Central Station”. Although I find the original work I hear from these musicians always to be very good, Wendy’s “Put On Your Seatbelt” was by far the best song I’ve heard from almost anyone in a very long time. I think it knocked everyone’s socks off…..I’m so glad she decided to sing it.

I loved the easy atmosphere found with this group and hope to find myself in their midst again. Maybe by then I’ll have finished my poem and can share it with them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


We walk Rupert in the morning at the same time the kids gather for the school bus. It seems odd to us that they appear at every corner. We remember having to walk to ONE corner to meet the bus in the “old days”.

Our neighborhood is so diverse….we passed two Afro-American teens, backs to one another, their cell phones blazing in the early morning light as they texted away (to one another?) on one corner, nodded to an Indian boy rushing to meet his bus, said hello to the younger Chinese kids who wait in the church parking lot who rarely speak but spin their sparkly smiles our way, and crossed the street in order to pass by the Iraqi kids on another corner because we’d noticed a grey car parked there on our way by earlier, parked on the wrong side of the road and just sitting there. We wanted to be sure everything was OK.

The young Iraqi boy, I’m guessing he’s around twelve, stopped me and said, “The police just went into that house and now they are standing there waiting.” Two younger Iraqi girls waited near him. We pass them most mornings, run into their parents in the laundry room we share, but don’t really know them well. I looked back at the grey car, recognizing that is was indeed a police vehicle and noticed several police men with bullet proof vests surrounding one of the houses on our block we have long suspected of being a drug hub.

“Do you want us to stand with you here until this is over?” I asked the young man. These kind of drug busts are fairly common in our neighborhood, typically end quickly and non-violently. I hoped the police wouldn’t be doing this at this time of day if they had feared it ending any other way. The girls seemed completely unconcerned. Had the boy been entrusted with their safety? Was he frightened?

He shook his head. “No, I am not scared.” He stood taller and thanked me and we slowly walked the half block home, letting Rupert take his time sniffing around every tree and telephone pole until it the drug bust was over.

All morning I've wondered.....what might this young Iraqi man have witnessed in his old neighborhood that makes a drug bust nothing to be scared about?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Writers Group Meets Today!

I cannot wait to see the gang! We take summers off to escape to cooler places or deal with families. Our first meeting is always a casual lunch at Sparky’s where we catch up on neighborhood gossip and what’s going on in each of our lives that we don’t already know. No one has to read anything or offer a critique, so we’re more relaxed. No one has to offer an excuse as to why they haven’t been writing anything either.

Mary Ellen and I have been writing during the summer…at least in our heads. We share a backyard fence now and have seemed to be back from our camps at the same time this summer, so we’ve talked about our poems a bit. I don’t know what Vince is working on. Jeffrey has kept me up to date via email on his memoir. We still haven’t replaced Deb, Denise or Demetri – the three former members who all moved away. If we do decide to replace them, we need to look for people whose names start with a letter other than “D”, I reckon. We miss these folks…..they’ve been gone awhile. We talk about having others join us, but we’ve become so comfortable with one another, it seems as if it might not be right to let anyone else come in. And could anyone really replace them anyway?

There are similarities and contrasts between the writers group and the songwriters circle. I think the writers group has more fun. We meet more often. Perhaps because we are smaller, we handle more material. I like the structure of the songwriters circle better and often wish one of the writers would run the group as efficiently when one of us gets off on a tangent and the others fail to bring us back to task.

I’ve missed these fellow writers. When we share our writing…in its rawest form with every flaw…we grow to know one another better than spouse or family often. I feel safe with them. They respect my politics, often share my convoluted view of the world. I know I can say anything at all around them and they’ll agree or just shrug it off as me being me. They are my sanctuary. And today I get to have lunch with them. I am indeed a lucky woman.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Old Friends

"Old Friends, sit on the park bench like bookends...."

Yeah, it's a Simon and you-know-who song, and don't worry, I'm not going into a tirade here again.

I had the privilege of having breakfast over the weekend with an old friend. It always feels so good to see Ginger, like pulling on the cardigan sweater you keep in the back of the closet, the only one that makes you feel warm on those days when you think you're coming down with the flu.

We met in the strangest of circumstances. It was nearly thirty years ago. I'd been physically assaulted and was in the hospital, literally fearing for my life. I begged them to put my in the psych ward, the only locked doors in the place, the only place I knew I could get a good night's sleep. My roommate there was Ginger, who'd had enough of the world at that time and had ended up being rolled into my room the night I arrived. We spent two weeks locked up together, talking, letting her friend Maggie sneak us in hot fudge sundaes, swapping therapy session stories and ranting about the therapist when each of our sessions resulted in the exact conclusions even when the issues we'd each raised had been extremely different. We scorned the so-called professionals there, plotted to assist a young woman's in escape from the ward (and succeeded!), and became fast friends.

We don't see each other often. I think it'd been a couple of years since we'd last seen each other, even though Ginger lives about three miles from where we camp. Saturday we met for breakfast and my new favorite spot, the Red and White Cafe in DeRuyter. We caught up on kids, grandchildren, our animals and retirement plans and life in general, met her latest dog, made vague plans to get together soon, waved good bye.

I carry her spirit with me still. She got me through some tough times; I like to think I helped her along the way, too. And we'll do it again someday. Gladly.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September Songs......Continued From Previous Post

In July hubby and I were treated to a lovely evening at the home of Mark and Alice Zane. After a tasty dinner, Mark grabbed his guitar and said he was going to play me the song he would be taking to the next Songwriters Woodshed so I could tell him if I liked the lyrics. How delighted I was to get a sneak preview of the next Mark Zane masterpiece!

And then he started playing a graceful melody and singing lyrics that startled me: it was a poem I had written. I was numb. Why was he doing this? Was he making fun of me? I’m a poet, not a songwriter. I think there is a huge difference between the two arts. I waited for him to stop playing and go into the song he had really written. He continued to play, the melody entranced me and I was speechless. If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a huge fan of Mark’s music. And there he was, singing one of my poems. I was honored, humbled.

About ten years ago, the Marketing Director at the oncology practice I worked for asked me to write a poem for a dinner being given by the Research Department for folks participating in a clinical trial. She asked me on a Monday morning and I read the poem at the dinner that Thursday night. It was well received by most. My boss at the time and I had our usual falling out about it. She felt I should have written about “heroes”; I had a different definition of a hero in my heart. The poem remained on the desks of several staff…..which may have merely been a means to suck up to the HR woman….but it was also picked up by other research programs in other states. The emotion of the poem touched some.

“The Urge” has a cadence, because I knew I had to read it out loud and it’s easier for me to do that with a rhythm and a rhyme if a poem has no personal meaning to me. And that’s probably why Mark chose to set it to music. Still, we knew that the songwriters group would NOT know what to do with it. It had no “arc”. It didn’t “say” anything. There is no chorus, no bridge, only three short verses. And the music, written mostly in minor chords, might be said to not match the lyrics, though I personally loved the contrast, finding it almost hymn-like.

It wasn’t a hit with the group, almost exactly as we expected it not to be. It may not have been fair to them to even present it, but it did generate a discussion about the melody. Sometimes the group gets hung up on critiquing lyrics only, so that was nice. The critique of my lyrics actually thrilled me… Wendy said, “You’ve been initiated!”….even though some of the lines rejected were the same others quoted as being the most meaningful to them. That’s perfectly fine with me: I want my words to mean different things to different people.

My delight came when Mark commented that he thought the group would know it wasn’t one of his songs and another songwriter said he thought it sounded like a Mark Zane lyric. THAT was music to my ears! Mark, my sincerest thanks. And, again, thanks to the group for allowing me to listen in every month. You always inspire….

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September Songs

After a month’s hiatus, the songwriters gathered again at Sparkytown last Tuesday. More about the songs later. First I want to share an exchange made by two of the musicians that I was so glad to hear. I’m paraphrasing here, but you’ll get the drift (and I’m not using names as I didn’t get permission):

Musician: Can you tell us what you meant by the verse that began……..?
Songwriter: I’d rather not get into the logic behind the song. I’d rather it be about the emotion of the song.

Yes! The song did not require explanation….it was about embracing possibility, and having possibility embrace you in return. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it. Someone else may have found a different meaning. And isn’t that the purpose of some songs? Not every song is supposed to have a clear cut beginning, middle and end; not every song should tell a complete story or mean the same thing to everyone. How nice it was to have a songwriter actually say this.

Many of the songs presented at the Words and Music Songwriters Woodshed are of the folk genre, which indeed do tell a story. And that’s fine. I love folk songs. I’m also drawn to those mystical lyrics that make you wonder what in the world was happening in someone’s life to make them put those words down on paper at that time (think of Leonard Cohen) ….and what could be learned from such words. It’s what makes music interesting to me, listening to lyrics that reflect an experience someone else may have had that I might identify with on some level. This song about possibilities spoke in volumes, possibly because I could fill in the blanks with my own experience. I didn’t need the details of the songwriter’s experience to make it real. I didn’t need the logic.

Other songs performed touched me also, particularly “Tuesday’s Song”, which included a line about Memorial Day. There was some discussion about the use of this holiday in the song. I felt it quite appropriate to use this for the day a relationship is over, for would that not be a memorial day? I loved the song….and boy, that gal can sing!

“One Drop of Rain” had delightful lyrics with surprises tossed in to keep you listening for what came next and a melody that pleased. It was a very catchy tune. Another melodic wonder with lyrics to match was “Make the World Go Slow”. Although there was some discussion about whether references to actual locations, in this case Lake Champlain, were good or bad for the song, I love this songwriter’s use of local venues and towns. His lyrics are always interesting, make you think and never bore me with worn out clichés.

One of the talented singer-songwriters in this group never fails to amaze me with his rhyme schemes and complicated songs. “Hang Onto Me Baby” was a delight…..and it always seems to me as if he sings each and every note he plays on his guitar.

“In Your Head” was painful to hear….not because it was not a wonderful song, but because it was so real, you understood exactly what the singer was going through. It reminded me of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” I just wanted to hug the songwriter afterwards. The song gave me chills.

The two youngest members of the group delivered two very strong songs. “Before It’s Too Late” was about not making the same old mistakes….and the words rang true. And my hat is off to anyone who can write Abraham Lincoln into song lyrics and make it interesting; “Hold Me to the River” did just that!

My disappointment of the evening was that one of the songwriters came empty handed. He’s been working on a lovely piece, “The Olive Tree”, and I’d hoped we would get a chance to hear it again. I hope his lack of a song to share was only due to his not having enough time to work on anything and not discouragement of any sort.

Oh…..yeah…..I almost forgot. One of the songwriters wrote a melody to a poem I’d written. We presented it to the group. I’ll have more to say about that in another post, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


There they the center of this spider's web....see them? All those words I wish I had the energy to type right now? Maybe tomorrow. After I unpack from our move back from the camper. After I get some sleep. After Chris gets back to work after his recovery from knee surgery. Once Rupert gets used to being back in the city again and stops barking at every noise. I've got lots to say, as soon as I can unwind the words....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


September 1st. We are back at the apartment, preparing for hubby's knee surgery scheduled for Thursday. I brought the first suitcases back from the camper and unpacked this morning. This task ranks tops on my list of least favorite things to do.

Others I know are getting used to new jobs or kids leaving for school or new schools themselves. I guess September is a month of transition for many. Still, I never like the move we make from peaceful days in the woods back into this city life. It's nice to have a grocery store around the corner and friends within shouting distance, yes....but oh how I miss those long, solitary walks Rupert and I started our mornings with wandering around the lake or through the woods and hay fields. He must get used to the school bus again and other dogs and people who feel compelled to yell.

Ugh. Sure will miss those woods.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Two Summer Postings

A boat ride and my whining about summer nearing its end....scroll down. Thanks for reading.

A Gift of Relaxation

Hubby and I were treated to time on Oneida Lake yesterday. A business associate of his invited us for a boat ride. We arranged for Grandma to take the dog and headed off. It was a gorgeous day and we were extremely happy to get away from our usual routines.

We refer to our hostess as hubby’s business associate, but she has truly become a friend. We were lunching with her the day the boat (a gift purchased as a gift for her partner) was being readied for delivery. The three of us went to “visit” it on its trailer, crawling around beneath its cover and checking out this marvelous surprise birthday gift. We’d never been able to arrange a time to actually ride on the water….until yesterday.

And what a delightful ride it was! Just the four of us, sunny blue skies, fairly calm waters and nothing more important to do than keep the snacks from tipping over. We’ve done enough together to have developed an easy comfort with each other. We caught up with what’s going on in our lives, traded a few blonde jokes, did some “house hunting” along Fish Creek, watched the sailboats, were mesmerized by a dazzling sunset and thoroughly enjoyed simply hanging out together.

A few hours on the water with such wonderful folks made us feel as if we’d been away for a week or more. We hadn’t realized how much we’d needed that respite. How do we even begin to say thanks for such a special gift? It could never be repaid.

August, My Cruelest Month

Was it T.S. Eliot who believed April to be the cruelest month? I think not. How can all those daffodils in bloom and promises of summer days to come be considered cruel?

For me, it’s definitely August. At the campground it seems as if all the other campers suddenly realize that the summer clock is ticking down and there are people everywhere. I’ve gotten used to having the place to myself when Rupert and I set out for our long walks through the woods and campground roads in the morning… we have to watch out for dogs not on a leash or little kids who think every dog in their path welcomes outstretched hands or idiots who toss firecrackers near campfires and think it’s funny to watch dogs walking by jump.

The sun sets earlier, a reminder to me that long winter days are lingering on the horizon, certainly not my favorite time of year. Leaves are already falling to the ground in the woods; the tops of some trees are beginning to turn color. Some days the smell of autumn is in the clouds.

I’m not done with summer yet. I’m not ready. But August is here, reminding me that my attitude must be adjusted. My friend Denise once wrote that she is “solar powered”. I believe I am, too. And I’ve not yet had enough of the sun to get me though the winter. I hope that August at least remains hot and humid and sunny. I’m probably one of the few folks NOT complaining about the heat (although it’s tough on the Rupert and that worries me)….because I know, now that August is here, winter is waiting in the wings. Cruelty.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summertime and the living is easy....

Scroll down for several recent postings about Donna Colton, DeRuyter Firemen Field Days, The Serious Dudes at the Red and White Cafe and the foxes at the camper.

Fun at the Firemen's Field Days

Americana at its best….or worse….depending on which way you’re looking. That’s the only way I can describe the DeRuyter Firemen Field Days. I always love going. This year we attended the pony pull, the competition where the firemen point their hoses at a ball and try to be the first team to get it by a certain point, the antique tractor pull, and, of course, the parade.

We watched a couple of country western bands play, too. I don’t know much about country music to really appreciate the bands. The Saturday night band, called Knight Ryders, seemed pretty smooth and got a lot of folks up and dancing. I admit to not knowing a lot of the numbers they played even though most of the dancers were singing along. The dance floor is directly in front of this area that is surrounded by chicken wire….known as the beer tent….which was standing room only. The band played louder than the roar from the beer tent, thankfully.

Kick-N-A played on Friday night. We know the drummer in this cover band, and it was a joy to watch him play. They did covers of rock and country songs….we knew some of these songs. The two-steppers enjoyed their playing, also. We actually went to the camper to get warmer clothes and came back to listen to them do another set; we were enjoying them that much. The show on the dance floor was beyond words.

Who needs Disneyland when you can go to a firemen’s field days? Cheaper. no long lines and much more fun. We’re already looking forward to next year.

The Serious Dudes Play at the Red and White Cafe

To begin with, they aren’t a bit serious by nature. They are serious musicians however. Talented musicians, too. We know one of them, Marc Ryan, in a round-about way. I’ve actually known him since he was an infant as I took over the job his mother left to give birth to him. Marc later became an acquaintance of my son’s and was hired by my son to play drums in the band that played for hubby’s 59 ½ birthday party last summer. Marc does it all: plays guitar, plays drums, writes music, manages. He also plays in a variety of cover bands. I swear, he can do it all.

Hubby and I are drawn to off the wall spots and the Red and White Café in DeRuyter is one of these. It used to be a Big M grocery store near our camper….where you could find whiskey sour mix stuck up on shelves in almost every aisle, something that used to puzzle and delight us at the same time. It has been lovingly renovated into the most delightful café. We’ve made friends with the owner, enjoy eating there at least once on weekends, and are thrilled that Christine has added live music on weekend nights. When we saw that Marc was playing, it was even more exciting!

The Serious Dudes played covers of Dylan and Allman Brothers and others…..and very well. They opened with “She Belongs to Me”, not your typical Dylan song, and I loved their version of it. It’s one of my favorites. And then they sang an old John Sebastian song I hadn’t heard in ages and ages, “Darling Be Home Soon”. It was wonderful to hear this again…..I couldn’t help but wonder why Marc loves this song and my own son hates it (he’s a very talented musician, preferring heavy metal) as I listened to Marc singing.

We loved listening to Marc, Sonny and Captain Andy …..these dudes who had fun playing to folks who should have listened more, because they missed three talented musicians playing extremely well.

Update on the Foxes

I find it odd that this summer we have foxes living in an abandoned camper near us….the summer I’ve been reading Lillian Hellman’s plays, including The Little Foxes, memoirs and autobiographies.
They are not so little now….and they seem to have dwindled from six to four. When it rains they huddle somewhere. But when the sun returns, they wander all around the campground, playing and romping around in the sunshine. They have no fear of campers, dogs, cars, etc. I sometimes worry about this.

We call 9:15 PM “the fox hour” now. At our guest camper we have a spotlight that comes on at dark and shines on a flagpole. Moths and other bugs are drawn to this light. I’d noticed that the iris and ferns planted near this light had been getting trampled and one night we discovered that the foxes like to sit beneath this lamp, jump up and catch the insects. Seems our light is their Nice ‘n’ Easy stop for snacks on their evening hunt. We can almost set our watches by them. Hubby and I sneak out on our deck and watch them, whispering…..but they know we are there, and they don’t care. They munch on the bugs awhile and then head down the hill for tastier fare.
Rupert longs to go play with them. Some afternoons, when he has barked and run from one end of the camper to the other begging for release, I wonder if I’m being mean by not releasing him and letting him run with them for a day or two. Naw…..