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 cafĂ© 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.