Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Monday...A Day Off

We close the bookstore on Mondays. There’s something wonderful about having Monday off when the rest of the world goes to work. It doesn’t even matter that we are “working” on the weekends, because this gig sure doesn’t feel like work.

Saturday was another busy day with lots of interesting folks coming into the store. I am still frustrated when we don’t have the books they are looking for, even when it’s a romance novel. One woman who was in a couple of weeks ago returned with some books for us to take in on trade and brought me a book that she had heard another customer requesting – it doesn’t get much better than that! And I haven’t been able to hunt down the book she had asked me to find yet either, but she was pleased as punch to have found the book that other customer had been asking about! It’s wonderful to be building those kinds of relationships with customers. And I’ve finally found some time to read a few books, too, including some these customers have suggested.

Our book hunting Sunday morning did not net us as much as I’d have liked. And Sunday proved to be a slower day, with the Poetry Workshop Sunday afternoon the highlight of my day. So we were looking forward to Monday.

And what a glorious Monday it was!

We went “off the island”, an hour’s drive away, to Salisbury, Maryland, to pick up my wedding band. I’d lost a diamond somehow on the move down here and this was the nearest Kay Jeweler repair shop. After that jaunt, we stopped at a Hospice Thrift shop (they are marvelous little stores!) and got some children’s books, plus I picked up some long-sleeved t-shirts for these cooler days when I don’t really need a sweater but my other shirts aren’t quite warm enough. Then home to pack a lunch which we ate at the beach, sharing some of it with the seagulls. Hubby had them eating bits of his apple out of his hand. We took a long walk along the Woodland Trail after our beach walk and were lucky enough to see a pony and a deer at the Wild Pony Overlook in addition to several egrets. We drove the Wildlife Loop and then stopped at Gary Howard’s for oysters and shrimp.

While hubby was preparing his oysters, he cut into his hand. That’s the first time we had to face the reality of living 50 miles from the nearest hospital. However, we live across the street from the fire department and there is an EMT on duty there. She wrapped his hand and suggested he go the clinic two doors down from us when it opened up today. He did. All is well. And it cost us a whopping $30, a huge reminder of the skyrocketing, out-of-control health costs in New York. Oh, we don’t have health insurance here either.
Other than periodic bouts of loneliness, missing loved ones and craving quality live music, life is good.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Here I Go Again....

I should change the name of this blog to “The Wonders of Running a Used Book Store on the magical island of Chincoteague, Virginia Where it Seems Like Home and Every Day Brings a New Wonder” but that’s way too many words.

But that’s my life now.

We’ve had a couple of very hectic months relocating, rearranging, readjusting. After having only about a day and a half of looking around these five rooms loaded with books (approximately 7,000) and absolutely NO experience running a cash register or credit card machine, we opened our doors the same day they closed the beach here because Hurricane Earl was expected to make an appearance. He didn’t but we saw almost everyone who had planned on spending Labor Day weekend at the beach. Those folks all bought books (THANKS!) and helped us learn our new profession very quickly.

After that first day, after scrambling around for eleven hours straight with no coffee/lunch/dinner breaks, hubby and I went upstairs and sat out on our back deck overlooking Chincoteague Channel and couldn’t stop smiling at each other. It was one of the best “work” days we’d ever had! We were exhausted, frustrated, wondering if we were going to get blown away by the storm before we even got unpacked, but we did what we always do: put our heads down and plowed on.

And it’s paid off. We still aren’t unpacked. We still have frustrations, but are slowly catching up on our sleep. Our days off now are actually spent at the beach and we were there this week when the snow geese landed here, at least two thousand. We were about the only humans on the beach, and it felt as though we were in our very own National Geographic special. It was mystical and magical and something I will never forget.

We don’t seem to leave the store often, but have ventured out to hear live music, although we realize how spoiled we were by the variety and talent we left behind us in Syracuse. At the last concert we attended here on the island, we made a call to a musician friend we knew was playing in a café we once traveled to often – if you scroll back you’ll read me raving about both Mark Zane and the Red and White Café in previous posts – and we called the Red and White and requested a song from Mark because we needed to hear “good” music that night. Of course, Mr. Zane obliged, and we were able to hear a couple verses of “Ruby” that gave us our live music fix for the weekend.

Monday night we went to the movies here in a nice, old-fashioned theatre less than a block down the street from us. Tickets are $5.50 on Monday! We saw “Secretariat” and next week they’ll be showing “Social Network.”

Misty’s hoof prints are in the cement in front of the theatre. If you don’t know who Misty is, well…..there’s this book. You can’t spend five minutes here in Chincoteague without learning about Misty. I hang my head while admitting I have not read “Misty of Chincoteague” but we did borrow the movie from the library and watched it last evening. I enjoyed seeing how the island I now call home looked back in the 1960’s.

In a selfish effort to get a writing group started here, I’m offering a poetry workshop here at the store tonight. I hope someone shows up.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the rooms at the bookstore or learning more about us, check out the website hubby put together. http://www.bookhoundsplus.com/

Thursday, August 26, 2010

So Long, Farewell, That German Word I Can’t Spell….

Although Time Warner SWEARS I will be able to access the email account that allows me to access this blog, it seems to me that once I stop paying someone for a service, that service most likely goes away. So I’ll probably be starting a new blog someplace else and I simply don’t have time at the moment to set up a new email account to continue this one.

Yup, hubby and I did indeed buy that used bookstore on that island and are in the whirlwind of selling almost everything except the stacks of books we have, stacking up stuff for a moving sale and doing all the shutting off/turning on utility things that have to be done. It’s amazing how the Internet has made this out-of-state move easier. I can definitely understand, also, why so many choose to set up a business in states other than New York. Having lived in New York most of my life, I had expected to be much more sentimental in leaving it. Not so. I am counting the days. I had given myself much more time to accomplish what I needed to do to set ourselves up for business…..I’m basically done…..now I’m sitting in an apartment that’s basically packed and ready to go, counting the days until the movers arrive.

So, Island life, here we come! No more posts complaining about the snow! If life slows down and I’m able to get back in here someday, I’ll tell you how it’s going. If not, thanks for reading. It’s been fun!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Loyalty and What's Next

Often I wonder if I even understand the meaning of “loyalty”. Perhaps it more that I wonder why my understanding seems lights years away from others most of the time.

It’s difficult to witness examples of employers being “loyal” to long time employees as they hand them pink slips after years of expecting those same employees to be loyal to them as employers. Children expect parents to be loyal – in spite of what children may do – yet feel free to turn their back on parents when things may not go their way. Long time commitments such as those to a particular business, restaurant, library, craft fair, are no longer always appreciated. You may remember previous posts about the craft fair I sold my one-of-a-kind handmade knit items at, Plowshares, for the past twelve years; this year they rejected my application to their annual event, the only place I’ve ever sold my merchandise. There was a time when they were barely able to fill a gym with vendors and I stayed with them, loyal to the core because I believed in their mission to sell quality, handmade goods.

But everything changes. I can’t quite put my finger on this shift in thinking though. For years I followed the advice of various elders: always do your best, work hard, be loyal, and you’ll always be respected for that.

Somehow it hasn’t always worked out that way.

These days it’s the advice my dad gave me later in his life that’s playing over and over in my head: You’re always going to have to work hard so you might as well work hard for yourself, not to make someone else rich.

Dad owned a successful marine distributorship after my mother ran off his boss. Funny what leads us to realize whatever it is we’ve really meant to do with our lives. He loved going to work every day, kept his inventory in his head even after purchasing a computer system to do that, treated his employees as he would have wanted to be treated, and was well respected.

I’m confident Dad was happy selling boats and being in control of his headaches. The echo of his advice to me – often given to me as I’d sit on the edge of his bed the last months of his life relating yet another story of issues I was dealing with the Human Resources job I had a that time – keeps me awake nights lately. He’s not here anymore for me to mull ideas over with as hubby and I try to figure out what to do next with our lives, but I think I’m finding an answer.

Yeah. I think I’m going to buy me a bookstore on an island off the Virginia coast, take control of my own headaches, spend some time near the ocean, forget about the snow and just be happy.

Star Appeal: Donna Colton and Sam Patterelli

Late last spring while hubby and I were enjoying the company of friends at a wedding reception, we looked up to see Donna Colton and Sam Patterelli, local musicians we admire greatly, being seated directly across the table from us. Although many of our friends are musicians, I was indeed star struck by their presence that day, as I continue to be each and every time we are lucky enough to catch one of their performances. I’ve blogged about them a time or two in the past, I’m sure.

We had an opportunity to hear them again at one of our favorite spots for acoustic music, Onativia Church in Lafayette a couple of Friday nights ago. It’s the perfect venue to hear every lyric Donna sings and each note Sam plays on any one of the many guitars he brings with him. I love their originals and never tire of hearing them. Their cover of Etta James’ “At Last” would have knocked my socks off had I been wearing any.

But this post is about what makes Donna and Sam stars, why I still feel star struck whenever I see them perform.

During the Onativia performance they told their audience about attending the sound check prior to the Washington, D.C., concert they attended of two of their idols, Carole King and James Taylor. They spoke of standing right beside one or the other of these stars, chatting with them and how down-to-earth each one of them had been, how in awe Donna and Sam had been of the way Carole King and James Taylor had treated them.

Well, Donna and Sam, that is EXACTLY how we as fans feel about you!

Thanks for sharing your talents with us! The miseries of the day recede for awhile when we listen to your songs until all that remains in our heads is “Evening Ride”, reminding us that good things, too, remain in this world.

Snoooooze Alarm

It took awhile for me to identify the source of my morning alarm clock. Our bird feeder is attracting new birds this sun-filled summer. I’d thought it to be some fair feathered friend cracking open sunflower seeds at dawn. Yup, I blamed the junco who feels free to wander across the deck whether we’re sitting there or not, the one who I swear would perch on Rupert’s back if he’d stay still long enough.

Then one morning when the song seemed particularly loud, long and darn joyful – though much earlier than I welcomed – I crept from the bed to peek out to see which bird was singing such a pretty song. Atop our mailbox, standing on his or her tiny hind legs stood one of the three or four chipmunks who scoot across our deck every day. This chipmunk was just a singing away!

One of my wildlife books claimed such chirping meant a chipmunk was sending out a distress call. I beg to differ. The chipmunk I spotted, and have heard several mornings since then, curtained did NOT seem to be in a protective mode. And there was definitely no danger. These critters love to toy with Rupert, often stopping on their trot across the deck to look through our sliding glass doors at the dog before they stop to sip out of his outside water bowl, never caring if he then barks at them while they leisurely get their fill of water. No, I believe they chirp with pure joy.

I just wish they would do it a little later in the morning.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Kellish Music Barn

I have another favorite venue for acoustic music run by two of my favorite people, Rick and Kathy.

I’d worked with Rick for several years and grew to respect his gentle nature and ability to always keep the needs of a patient front and center no matter what else was going on in his world. He was the same person each and every day, a smile on his face, his passion for providing excellent patient care shining brightly. There should be more healthcare professionals in this world with Rick’s values.

Kathy and I met face-to-face about a year ago when we both attended a musical event at Onativia Church and I introduced myself to her. I felt as if I’d known her, having had phone conversations with her in my role handling employee benefits with I worked with Rick. She and I went on to become Facebook friends.

Hubby and I finally, finally, finally made it out to their amazing farm and music barn a couple of Friday nights ago for a concert. Larry Hoyt and Eileen Rose, two talented local musicians we’ve often had the pleasure of hearing at the Monday night open mic at Tipp Hill hosted by Joanne Perry and Wendy Ramsay (we often enjoy listening to Larry Hoyt’s Sunday afternoon radio show, Common Threads, on WAER, too) played the first set, a combination of cover songs and Larry Hoyt originals. Shannon Wurst, a singer/songwriter from Fayetteville, Arkansas, followed – what a treat! Check her out on You Tube! Buy her CD! You won’t be disappointed!

We fell in love with the ambiance of this venue, mostly the result of the huge welcome Kathy gives each guest. We happily returned to the farm last Thursday night for their weekly open mic, hosted that week by Mark Zane, that drew area musicians Brian Francis, Dave Gillespie, Dusty Pascal, Brad Thomas, Tim Stevens, Dan Brown, Mark Matthews….and so many more I’ve forgotten their names, including a woman from Cary, North Carolina and Dave from Hamilton, whose mandolin accompanied many and was truly the “star” of the evening.

What a time we had there! If you will, please vote for them for the Best Acoustic Venue in this year’s SAMMY Awards. Here’s the link: http://www.syracuseareamusic.com/peopleschoice

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This Summer of Love

Many of you are probably old enough to remember flowers in your hair and the sweet music that evolved from a magical summer years ago. It seems as if I’m reliving that summer in many ways. So far it’s been filled with visits with dear friends resulting in laughter and hugs. We’ve filled our heads and hearts with exciting music, traveling around to hear our friends play various venues and always waking up the next morning with their songs still keeping us company. Even our teenaged granddaughter has enjoyed accompanying us on such ventures this summer, leaving her heavy metal music behind her and opening her ears to other avenues and even LIKING what she hears! If John Sebastian was singing “Do You Believe in Magic?” I would have to shout out “Yes”.

Of course, I’m exhausted.

I thought with hubby not working we’d have long hours where we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves and we’d be bored and restless and what have you. That hasn’t happened. We’ve had time to read a ton of wonderful books…..The Lacuna by Barbara Kingslover and Terrorist by John Updike have to be the best books I’ve read all year and both of us were spellbound by Stephen King’s Under The Dome which I read in three days (1072 pages), not doing anything else except walk the dog and answer hubby when he'd ask, “Where are you now in the book?”

We still don’t have a plan for what’s nextin our forced retirement. Hubby is still enduring physical therapy but is now able to join Rupert and me on our walks and actually mowed the lawn yesterday for the first time this year. Little by little it’s getting better. I admit to awaking in the middle of the night sometimes in a blind panic wondering when the money is going to run out and which bridge I’ll be begging beneath ….but, for now, I’m enjoying this beautiful summer of love. It’s never too hot for me, so I’m about the only person I know who’s not complaining about the lack of rain. As they sang way back when…..Let the sun shine, let the sun shine, let the sun shine in.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


She is not our first, baby Gwen, yet she is oh so special, this one. I’ve always said, if there was any woman on the face of this earth that I would choose to be a mother to my grandchildren, it would be Kate….and how blessed I am to have a son wise enough to choose Kate to have this special child with. To add even more to my blessings, Kate honored me by having me with her when baby Gwen was delivered last Christmas Eve. This was truly an event I will never forget. I have not been able to find adequate words to describe the emotions that ran through my heart and head on that day as Kate held my hand and this delightful little girl slipped into our world.

Gwendolyn Mary is a curious six-month old who has a quick smile after she warms up to you. Her belly laugh is genuine. She’s pulling up on everything she gets her hands on, eager to walk, exactly as her father was at that age. He pulled this task off at nine months, so proud of himself he jumped up and down with glee, then fell into the coffee table, cut his forehead open and needed three stitches. He did not attempt walking unassisted again for a couple of months. I’m hoping Gwen takes her time.

Gwen’s going to be such an amazing kid. Her folks are so patient with her, seeing the world anew through her eyes and enjoying the view tremendously. She can’t help but turn out to be even smarter than the two of them are. I hope I’m around long enough to see where her passions lead her. I know she’ll find her way to amazing places and will be allowed to dip her toes into the water on many shores in her search to find what feels like home. Her parents understand that happiness is the journey and not the destination, such an important lesson to learn. Gwen could not be in better hands. This shows in her smile, in her dirty face at the end of a busy day exploring her world, in the contented way she falls asleep in her mother’s arms. Ah, Gwendolyn Mary. She is indeed a grand baby.

What I Don't Understand

Yes, indeed, I could write a book with that title. Every holiday weekend we swear we won’t stay at the campground because there are too many idiots who literally disturb our peace with their misbehaved dogs and children while they drink all day and night and play around with illegal fireworks. I have to admit that it gives us great pleasure to get up early the next morning and walk Rupert through the campground. These transient campers are typically hung over, sitting by campfires with grumpy kids who still wanted their breakfast (imagine that) and dogs who haven’t stopped barking since they pitched their tent or pulled their noisy pickup trucks up to the campers they only use for holiday weekends. We stroll by, shout “good morning” to them with a smile on our face. We’ve observed the “quiet” rules, turning our fan on inside our camper so we don’t hear the drone that continues long after 11:00 PM on these weekends, after the illegal fireworks have frightened Rupert to the point of a near heart attack, leaving him in a pool of drool huddled beneath the table inside the camper, leaving me on the brink of another seizure, leaving us to wonder how much the rates here will be increased when someone loses a finger or two and the liability insurance rates go sky high. Those bright lights (much better when left to the professionals anyway) won’t seem so special then, I imagine.

This campground that we call home from May to October doesn’t have many bells and whistles. There’s not much for the kids to do here. That’s a common complaint. For us, it’s one of the reasons we stay here: we like it that there aren’t a ton of kids roaming around all the time. We’ve played that game. We love to have the grandkids come; we love to have them go home again. We’re here to watch the trees grow, watch the lake change as the wind switches direction, listen to the birds call to one another, chuckle at the chipmunks scampering across the camper deck, enjoy the sunrise and the sunset. We want the peace and quiet. We’ll relinquish it to those who crave the party atmosphere of the holiday weekends, yet we’ll never understand why they put themselves through all that. They’d feel so much better if they’d drink less, take a nice morning walk with their dogs and children, or sit quietly and look around them, enjoy these beautiful woods without making all that useless noise. Don’t they get enough of that at their jobs or in their homes?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Onativia Church Music Series

One of the best kept secrets in the local music scene has been the First Friday concerts at this lovely little white church just off Route 20 in Lafayette, NY. If you’ve read me before, I’ve written about several folks we’ve heard play there. The acoustics in the church are amazing and the talent brought in never fails to provide top notch entertainment. Sherrie and Opie (the brains behind this operation) work very hard to make the experience welcoming and pleasant…..and the homemade desserts for sale during intermission are pretty darn tasty, too!

What great news to find out they were expanding their series to include other Friday nights! Here are shows scheduled for future Fridays, beginning at 7 PM:

July 9th - Diamond Someday
July 23rd – Butternut Creek
August 6th – Donna Colton and the Troublemaker (that’s Sam, of course)
September 10th – Dana Klipp (Northwater)
October 1st – Folkstrings
October 22nd – Larry Hoyt and the Good Acoustics
November 5th – Joe Davoli and Harvey Nussbaum
November 19th – Joanne Perry and the Unstoppables
December 3rd – Donna Colton and Sam’s Holiday Performance
March 11th – Mark Zane and Friends (yes….Sherrie’s booked folks all the way into 2011)

We had the absolute pleasure to catch Mikey Powell and Dusty Pascal (or is it Pas’cal…..I never know if I should put that apostrophe in or not….sorry, Dusty, if I got it wrong) at the beginning of the month. We knew it would be a good show; the way hubby is feeling these days after his knee replacement surgery, we do not venture too far away from home or camp for much of anything. It was so much more than GOOD though. It was magnificent. Such talented singer-songwriters who absolutely love bringing their tales to an audience didn’t even have to break a sweat to please this crowd. What a pleasure it was to sit back and watch them perform. Everyone in the audience was attentive. That’s what’s so great about going to one of these gigs at Onativia….you can sit back and truly listen to what’s being played and hear the mastery of the artist. Mikey and Dusty gave us a lot to remember, tunes that stuck in our heads as we drove back home.

Work it into your calendar to get over to Onativia Church, just off Route 20 at the corner of Dodge Road and Apulia Road. Music starts at 7:00 PM and they’ll pass the collection plates around at some point to pay the musicians. Be generous. You’ll be in for a special treat.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I’m blessed….and cursed.

Coming home with a belly full of spaghetti and meatballs courtesy of Mary Ellen who cooked for us tonight, knowing we’d come home from the camper and had doctor appointments and nothing in our refrigerator here…..she is so wonderful…..I was accosted by my neighbor in the back who accused me of messing with the clothes she had in the washing machine today.

Right. I’ve got all sorts of time for that kind of stuff in my life these days. Actually, SHE took MY clothes out of the washer to put her clothes in AND opened the dryer door so my clothes in there didn’t dry….but she had an “issue” with my messing with her clothes. This woman just came home from the hospital with a newborn baby (we did not know she was pregnant even) and has a less-than-two-year-old underfoot who must think his name is “Jesus Christ” because that’s what she’s hollering at him all the time. She said to me tonight, “I know I’m a loud mouth….” and I had to bite my lip to say “yes and you should be arrested for some of the things you say to your children.

She jumped on me the minute we returned from a nice dinner at Mary Ellen’s, complete with a couple glasses of wine. I almost wish I’d had a third glass of wine; I might not have held my tongue. I may be sporting a black eye as I type this now, but it might have been worth it. Life had not been kind to us lately, and it just didn’t feel right that this woman should beat up on me either.

But, I’m really not going to let her. Instead I’m going to be content to know I have wonderful friends who know I’m going through a rough spell and cook dinner for me and don’t yell at me. They are priceless. The she-beast who lives in the back apartment of this house will probably never know such friends. I pity her. She may need them someday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

No Need for Body Counts

No, this isn’t an anti-war rant…although I could go there easily.

Recently a musician died that I once had a passing acquaintance with as we both grew up in the same town. I had a closer relationship with someone who once had played in several of his bands. Upon hearing of this musician's death we discussed how sometimes when one is rising to fame and fortune, others are left behind, sometimes unfairly and often not in the nicest way. Even though apologies eventually are extended and accepted – or at least that was so in this particular case – the truth is, it still happened and it still sucked.

A few days after this discussion another friend of mine and I were talking about another person’s rise in the corporate world. I cautioned my friend against blindly trusting this woman and my friend’s response was, “Well, she never would have gotten the position she has without leaving some bodies behind.”

Hmmm. Have we become so calloused as a society that we believe it is perfectly OK to leave behind a body count on our rise to success?

Certainly I can’t be the only person left who believes that not only can a person become successful without negatively impacting the lives of others, but the only folks who DESERVE success are those who don’t forget the ones who got them there, who remember what it’s like to walk in the shoes of others, who don’t let the money go to their heads, and who remember to give back as much as they take.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Expectations (and Blessings)

Typically, my expectations of others are low. It’s easier for me to expect less; I’m disappointed less often that way.

Recently we’ve been absolutely BLESSED with the kindness of others when Chris had surgery to replace his weary knee. Because of my seizure disorder, I do not drive. Offers for rides to the hospital and later to the rehab facility were abundant. Every morning my phone rang with someone new asking … Did I need to go get groceries? Did I need a ride to the post office? Any prescriptions I needed? How was I getting out to see Chris that day? Was I interested in going out for lunch? Were my library books due back?

I learned how to say “yes”, which is not as easy as it may seem. I hate to impose on others, but I found that, as I like doing for others, others liked doing for me. And I enjoyed those glasses of wine with Mary Ellen, catching up with news of Janet’s grandchildren and her new camp, breakfast with Vince and listening to him read his latest work, eating Josh’s peanut butter cookies, visiting with Mark and Alice, running errands with Kathy, hearing Tim telling me what Rupert did when he spent the night with McKinley, laughing with Sharon about how well we make lemonade out of the lemons life hands us, venting with Denise and running into all our neighbors when I was walking Rupert who asked about Chris and offered rides or whatever. And then there are my many Internet friends who sent wishes and kept me company when I couldn’t sleep, and my musician friends who soothes me with their tunes. My son and his oldest daughter supported me via text messages, as is their way.

BUT….you must have known there was a ‘but’ coming…..surrounded by such support I allowed my expectation to be raised and to include everyone around us to treat us as we would treat them in a similar situation. We are truly blessed to have friends we treasure and family we love. This includes my mother-in-law. My husband is an only child. We have taken ‘Mom’ on two cruises (we paid)….including our honeymoon cruise….and on several vacations to Manhattan and other places. When she had surgery a couple of years ago, we took very good care of her….we wanted to do so, no questions asked, we took time off from our jobs and did this willingly and lovingly. Not because it was expected of us, but because we wanted to.

She did take us to the hospital the day of his surgery and did drive me back and forth the three days he was in the hospital. She also took Rupert for me the first day Chris was in rehab so I could spend the day there with him. I won’t say she made this easy in any way; she has a way of letting you know that it is an inconvenience for her (she wanted to be mowing her lawn instead one day).

Chris was told he was going to be released on a Friday and wanted her to take him home. (Don’t we all want our mothers when we’re not feeling well? Even I want my mother when I’m not feeling well, and believe me, she was a piece of work even when she was sober!) The MIL lives five minutes from the rehab facility. We had planned to have her pick him up, call me when they got close to home so I could take the dog for a walk, they could get Chris settled in at home and then I could bring Rupert in and he could get all excited about his favorite toy’s return home after two weeks away without any worry about Rupert knocking Chris down or jumping up on him. The MIL agreed. Then the release day was moved up a day early. When I called her to tell her this, she said she was “too busy” to do it that day.

“Too busy” really meant that she had an appointment three hours later than the time he was being released. It would have taken her twenty minutes to drive him from the rehab facility to our place, then another half hour at the most to drive back home. So we were asking her for an hour of her time at the most. Why did she need three hours before her appointment? She needed to make sure she had enough time to do her hair and makeup.

The truth is, she was “annoyed” (I could use other words here) that we had friends who helped us out…..and we were able to call one of those friends (thanks, Tim!) who brought Chris home last Thursday. Yesterday, Chris called her to let her know he was doing OK. She made a comment about wondering why he hadn’t called her sooner. Good thing I wasn’t the one on the phone as I might have said, “Phone lines work both ways.” And then in the course of their conversation she tells Chris that his aunt died while he was in the hospital, but she “didn’t want to bother him with the news then.” She hasn’t spoken to this sister in twenty years or so, but Chris and I have seen her and we would have liked to have known. I would expect a mother to act differently.

There I go again…..raising my expectations.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, yeah. Three days in the woods and a couple of nights where I actually slept all night and I’m a new person. It doesn’t matter that hubby is still fairly crippled by his knee replacement, although doing well. It doesn’t matter that Rupert may have caught one Frisbee too many while we were out there and hurt his jaw. It doesn’t even matter that he’s been puking ever since we pulled back into the driveway back here in the city. Or that it’s 80 degrees and humid here. There was a moment of respite this weekend in the woods when the sun was shining and it was sooooo quiet all we could hear were robins chirping. Ahhhhhhhhh. We’re doing it again soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Leash Laws

I walk Rupert on a leash. For most of the year, we are walking city sidewalks in a busy part of the city early in the morning when there’s often a school bus stopping at one corner and folks who are late for work rolling through stop signs at other corners. When we walk later in the day, the streets are full of office workers racing back home.

Rupert walks well. He’s on a retractable leash and has been trained to sit whenever we say “wait”. He also does this without any verbal command at any corner; sometimes he does it when he sees someone coming at us that he’s not too sure about. He’s a wonderful judge of character.

He is very aware of other dogs, particularly those who are not on a leash. He immediately goes into protective mode, baring his teeth, barking at them, placing himself between me and the loose dog. These dogs, at least in our neighborhood, are often smaller dogs. One neighbor has three of them and often walks them on the same path I walk Rupert, all at the same time, all off leash. Another neighbor has two small dogs she lets out in her front yard without a leash. Her yard is somewhat hidden so we often come upon them and do not know they are out there doing their business. (Rupert isn’t fond of surprise encounters, either.)

Here’s my problem. These dog owners have an issue with me. The woman with the two yippy dogs snapped at me this week that I needed to get my dog under control (he was sitting and barking at her dogs at the time) and the man with the three dogs off leash yelled at me this morning that I should walk on the other side of the street because one of HIS dogs might run into the street to get away from my dog.

There are leash laws for reasons. I obey them. Rupert loves to be off his leash and would no doubt walk by my side, do his business and we’d have few problems. But I wouldn’t want to chance his running into the street after a cat or his chasing after another dog or doing anything dogs are apt to do. Why don’t other dog owners feel that way? It’s not “mean” to keep a dog on a leash. I think it’s lazy on these other dog owners’ part NOT to follow the leash laws. And I am never going to alter my route because someone can’t be bothered to teach his three dogs to walk on a leash. In fact, I’m going to report him. It just might save the life of one of his little poochies.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Heavy Silence Today

Usually I welcome empty rooms and time stretching ahead of me without obligations that translates into hours left for writing or knitting or simply sitting still and thinking. But today I’ve had news of the death of two friends from long ago and for some reason, I’m not able to simply tuck this information away and move through the day again.

I’ve seen neither of these people in several years. One moved on to fame and fortune and would probably not have remembered me now. The other was a former boss I was once glad to have moved on from, but also happy that she once gave me a chance to prove what I could do. Neither were relatives or lovers. Both were more than passing acquaintances, less than best friends. Still, I am mourning them today, unexpectedly.

I am remembering quick smiles, guitar licks, cigarette smoke, crazy drives on winding country roads, chocolate milk shakes, auditors, changing ribbons in calculators, dances at St. Mary’s and PTO meetings. And two folks who made their marks on the world in their own way. I shed tears for them both today, even though they might have walked past me on the street all these years later. There was a time when we shared moments of our lives, moments that led me to where I am now. They are part of my landscape, part of the tapestry I’ve made my own. I will not forget Beverley or Ron.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sweet Sounds at Sugarpearl

If you’re lucky enough to be in the Hawley-Green neighborhood of Syracuse on a Tuesday or Thursday around lunchtime, drop by Sugarpearl at the corner of N. Crouse and Burnet (plenty of parking in the lot shared with Ra-Lins Department Store across the street) and list to some amazing music while enjoying a tasty lunch, too!

Sugarpearl offers vegan food so delicious you forget that it’s so good for you. I’ve become addicted to their power burgers. Once you eat one, you’ll never be satisfied with what anyone else serves as a veggie burger again. Plus…they have non-vegan offerings; try the Beastie Boy, a dynamic roast beef sandwich that is much more than a mouthful.

On Tuesdays you’ll be treated to cover songs and originals by Melissa Clark. Melissa plays everything from the Beatles to Johnny Cash, Paul Simon to the Kinks, Mary Chapin Carpenter to John Fogerty. Her originals have such a spark; you’ll notice other diners stopping conversations to listen to her compelling lyrics. And that gal sure knows her way around a guitar! She’ll have your toes tapping in no time!

Joanne Perry takes the stage on Thursday, playing her originals, too. Her songs stick with you; you’ll be humming them later in the day. Joanne’s voice will charm you. She often has special guests join her for a song or two, and that's always a treat. Who might it be this week? Wendy Ramsay? Dana “Short Order” Cooke? A member of her band “Joanne Perry and the Unstoppables?” Or another local singer-songwriter who happens to stop by for lunch? You never know.

Support you local musicians. Drop a coin or two into their tip jars, that’s how they get paid for this gig. Brian Francis plays on Friday. And Sunday there is a brunch with live jazz. Yeah. Drop by. Listen. Enjoy. It’s a touch of Greenwich Village, right here at Sugarpearl.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Favorite Time of Year

On every calendar I’ve owned the past ten years, May 1st has a big, red circle around it. It’s the day the campground opens, the day the water and electricity gets turned on, the first day we can spend the night in the woods again. I count the days until May 1st as a five-year old awaits Santa Clause, craving those long May and June days there when the kids are still in school and other campers haven’t really settled in yet. We are usually one of maybe four or five other couples living there this early in the season. It’s quiet. Everything is newly green and coming to life. It’s quiet. The lake glistens. It’s quiet. The smell of spring is intoxicating. And have I said how quiet it is?

I don’t think I could live right smack in the middle of the city as we do if we didn’t have this oasis to escape to in the summer.

But this year, our escape will be very different from previous years. I won’t have those ten-hour days when I could lose myself in whatever I was writing after hubby drove off to work; he’s going to be home for the summer recovering from knee replacement surgery. And we won’t be staying at the camper after this weekend, because of the surgery. It’s unknown when we’ll actually be able to move in for the summer.

Last weekend we raked leaves and took tarps off the camper we live in and our guest camper. My flower beds got cleaned up, the cupboards got stocked. We gathered kindling, made the bed with fresh linens, scrubbed winter dirt away. The owners of the campground actually turned on our electric early for us, so we could get it all ready for hubby when he’s able to go there to recover. We had a lovely day there, complete with the first camp fire of the season. Driving home to Syracuse, we felt as if we’d been away for a week.

I’m hoping this coming weekend brings us that kind of respite. Our heads are swimming with all the details of the knee replacement surgery hubby will have a week from Friday. My “to-do” list seems endless. We need to run away from it all for a few days, listen to the birds sing, drown in the peace and quiet of the awakening woods. I’m packed, I’m ready for quiet.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Want" vs. "Need"

For quite some time now, I’ve been mulling over the difference between what I need and what I want. Perhaps this is the result of not having had a “real” job for the past four years. I gave up my two vices as a result – buying books and CDs – and have had no problem visiting the library every week instead of adding more books to bookcases already stuffed or buying more CDs.

Or maybe I could blame the DVD my son raved about and said I should watch: “Capitalism, A Love Story”…a Michael Moore movie. I watched it and it made me think, reinforced my mission never to step foot inside a WalMart store. I applaud Michael Moore for making movies that make people think; there is so little of that any more. Perhaps my recent reading of “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn and reflecting on his theory of Leavers and Takers plays into this, too.

I look around at the items we have accumulated in the ten years hubby and I have been together added to those things we had each salvaged from our first marriages. We have too much……stuff. I’d like to call somebody who’ll just come and take it all away. Hubby is much more attached to his stuff, and he’s taking a slower, “let’s go through it room by room and see what we need” approach.

Here’s where the “want” vs. “need” comes into play. We have an extensive music collection. I’m ready to give it up. I’ve enjoyed listening to all those LPS….have indeed moved those two hundred plus LPs about twenty freaking times as well as the boxes of cassettes and CDs. I’m ready to let someone else enjoy them and NOT move them another time. It’s the same thing with my books. I already cleaned out my bookcase. It’s empty, ready to go on Craigslist and I have seven boxes of books to be taken to the used book store. If I “want” to listen to music, I can go find live music somewhere to listen to. If I “want” to read a book, the library is just down the road. I don’t “need” all those books and CDs cluttering up space…..and I don’t want to pack them when we figure out where it is we want to go.

Needs are simple for me. A bed, a chair, a table, a lamp, my laptop will do it for me. I don’t care if I have a television. I’m tired of dusting candleholders, ceramic pots, wooden bowls. We have beautiful original art on the wall. I’ve enjoyed looking at it. But now I’d like to look at the ocean or woods someplace where it doesn’t snow. I’m ready to take the artwork down, sell it and move on. Let someone else enjoy it. I don’t “need” it. And quite frankly, I don’t even “want” it anymore.

I’m not one to shop, never have been. I literally have to be dragged to a store to buy new clothes, and even then I prefer to go to The Salvation Army Thrift Shop instead of Kohl’s. You will not find the floor of my closet littered with shoes. It’s not important to me to be fashionable. I “need” and “want” clothes and shoes that are comfortable. Period.

I am going to hang onto Grandma Priscilla’s green serving plate though. I’ve moved it several times already. I’ve been told it’s some kind of rare depression glass. I don’t know about that. I pull it out sometimes when we have company and put pickles and olives and other goodies in its little sections. I keep it because Grandma used to mix up finger paints for me in it. I “need” this plate.

Oh, maybe downsizing won’t as easy as I think it will be.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Kindness of Friends

My husband will have knee replacement surgery in a couple of weeks. He injured both of his knees in January of 2008. Surgery to repair a meniscus tear to his right knee was successful in February of 2009 so he had the same surgery done to repair the left knee right before Labor Day weekend last year. He has been in even more pain since then, as the ‘clean up’ of his knee joint resulted in bone rubbing on bone every time he walks. I can hear the bones in his knee scraping against each other now when we walk the dog. His knee often pops out on those walks. Some type of prescription pain medication is always tucked into the pocket of his jacket or sitting on the kitchen counter, next to his bed….never far away. Our routine has been determined by whether or not he’s had physical therapy that day, how intense his pain is. We haven’t been to Manhattan in two years now because he simply can’t walk the sidewalks there the way we used to. There’s a lot we don’t do any more, some because of the pain, some because of the way the painkillers dull his senses. Quality of life has changed drastically.

Yes, we know he’s in for more pain and a recovery that is going to require weeks of physical therapy. A foreign object will be implanted in his body and part of his bone cut away. We’ve seen the videos, been to the workshops, gone through all the educational seminars necessary for this life altering surgery.

We appreciate the concern expressed by friends. We’re scared, too. But we’re choosing to keep a positive attitude and see this as the light at the end of the tunnel. There will be pain; there will be recovery. But in a few weeks, a few months, there’s the possibility that he can walk across the room again without pain. Or down to the lake at the camper. Or through Central Park. Or even through Price Chopper.

Still, the phone calls we’ve received with offers to help are greatly appreciated. I’m sure I’ll be calling. We can never go through such periods of our lives alone. We feel blessed to have the kindness of friends supporting us.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lethal Dose Rocks the Cortland Youth Center

Hubby and I wanted to surprise our son whose band, Ruination, was scheduled to play a gig at the Cortland Youth Center last Saturday night, so we drove down for a night of heavy metal music. This isn’t the type of music we typically seek out, but we’d hoped to grab some time with our 16 year old granddaughter, too, which was a pleasure, as it always is. However, Ruination was unable to play due to an injury to their bass player and the absence of their singer. We were disappointed, although it was good to have some time with our son and the other members of the band who came up to support the other two bands performing that night.

We stayed to hear Lethal Dose, expecting them to be loud and the typical metal that we really don’t choose to listen to. They are from Watkins Glen and I don’t know the individual members, although know my son rarely books acts to play with his band if he doesn’t feel they are good.

They were pretty awesome. Of course we couldn’t understand any of the lyrics (these bands all seem to scream), so we concentrated on the melodies. The drummer was kind of hard to hear, which may have been the fault of the sound system. It didn’t matter though. The two young men playing guitar were fantastic.

The star of the evening, for us at least, was the young woman playing bass. She certainly held her own and her playing was loud and clear, extremely complementary to the rhythm and lead guitars.

We did wonder how much physical therapy these young folks would have to endure in their later years as the end result of all that head banging.

And another observation: boys dance now and the girls stand around. It was definitely the opposite in my day. At least I think that was “dancing” that the boys were doing. It was certainly energetic and fun to watch.

It took us a few hours to regain our hearing but we truly enjoyed this gig….especially “The Viking Song”.

We hope to catch them again sometime on the stage with Ruination the next time we drop in for a dose of heavy metal.

I’m told Lethal Dose plays often at the Savoy in Watkins Glen, so if you’re into metal, check them out. If two old fogies like us liked them, you might just love them!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

S l o w i n g D o w n

Ahhh…..hear that? It’s the cardinal singing at the top of the tree in the back yard. Why does he sing? Because he can. And why are we slowing down? Because we can.

Sniff, sniff, sniff…..smell that? It’s the daffodils and all the trees that are budding.

Every time we walk the dog now, we can see something new and green unfolding. We can see it. Because we aren’t rushing down the street so hubby can get back to work. We’re taking alternate routes, even though Rupert is a dog of habit and doesn’t necessarily LIKE going in other directions. We’re “strolling” now, at least on these nice, sunny days we’ve been having.

Every day we do at least two things that move us forward to ‘what we want to be when we grow up’ so we aren’t stagnating while we wait for hubby’s knee replacement surgery to be scheduled. And we’re getting ready to move to the woods for the summer.

When we go out to hear music now, we enjoy it even more because we don’t have to hurry home or know we’ll be tired the next day because we can sleep a little later. It’s a guilty pleasure when we’re still in bed at 8:30 and not at a desk somewhere solving someone else’s problems. But – hey – we’ve paid our dues. The guilt goes away quickly, trust me.

Life is good out of the fast lane. We’re going to a Songwriter’s Showcase tonight at OCC; I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it later. If you’re interested in hearing what I thought about the poet Seamus Heaney’s lecture at Syracuse University this week, check out my writing blog. http://cobwebsarefree.blogspot.com/

And try it yourself, if you can, even for a day…..slowing down. It’s well worth it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wanted: Adult Guidance

I had a meltdown recently. That’s not usual for me. I’ve been able to sail through most any troubled waters and always have been able to keep my eye on the safety of a shoreline, know the direction I wanted to travel. Perhaps age is slowing down my capacity to juggle change as easily as I once did. Maybe these past few years of not having had a “real” job has altered the ability I once had to look at a situation and simply know what to do. Or it could be as simple as it’s easier for me to solve other people’s problems than it is to solve my own.

We have some decisions to make. One thing that makes these decisions more difficult is that we feel the lack of the luxury of years ahead of us to change our course if we end up making the wrong decision and need to correct it. We’re getting older. Our bones ache, our health isn’t what it used to be and, darn it, we’re just plain tired. Major life changes are happening – welcomed, for sure, but scary none-the-less.

I’ve wished there was someone I could go to and say, “What do you think of this idea?” What I really want is ten minutes with my father or my aunt, the two most influential people in my life who have passed on and are no longer a phone call away. How I’ve missed their common sense these past few days! This feeling of being an orphan saturates my every thought. I’ve a younger brother, but he’s embroiled in his own worries and has never been one to offer an opinion on anything other than a second baseman being traded. Most of our friends are younger than we are, can’t really appreciate the unique issues sudden retirement thrusts upon you. Of course, there’s my mother-in-law, who has been absolutely wonderful, but not someone I can honestly talk to about moving away and get any kind of good advice from as she’d just say “don’t”.

Finally, after 57 years, I guess I feel as if I’m an adult, because there's no one left who's older than me I can go to for guidance. And the truth is, I don’t like that very much.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Yeah, I’ve been hearing David Bowie singing in my head a lot the last couple of weeks. But it’s all good. Or it will be. I have faith that every change in our life paves the way for us to actually see what was there for us to do that we couldn’t see because we were so wrapped up in the way things were.

My hubby jumped off the hamster wheel his employers had put him on, cleaned out his office, turned in his keys and said good-bye. It was bitter sweet and a little ahead of the retirement schedule we had planned. However, my husband said it perfectly in his good-bye speech to his boss: “There’s comes a day when it’s time to move on, and today is that day.” I had never been more proud of him. Sometimes it’s the more difficult decisions that bring out the best in a person.

What amazed me was the concern expressed by others in our life! How wonderful it is to have such amazing friends! But we’ll be fine. Our needs are quite simple and we’ve lived in such a way to bring us to this point safely. We’ll be taking some time now to get hubby’s knees in better shape and through replacement surgery, spending the summer together at the camper (I cannot wait for this!) and then we’ll decide what happens next. Do we stay in the snow next winter? (I definitely vote “no” on that one!) What kind of fun jobs might we do to supplement social security? (I’m thinking we could run a miniature golf course someplace sunny.) What do we want to be when we grow up? (The possibilities seem endless.)

We’ve always led our lives with the motto “Happiness is the journey, not the destination.” So, I know we’ll be fine. It’s getting easier to convince those around us still trapped in various hamster wheels of their own that this is the case. Maybe they can see it in our smiles, in the way we shrug our shoulders and kind of giggle when they point out that we no longer wear watches because it really doesn’t matter to us what time it is. There is something to be said for living the simple life, and – hey – believe me, we have paid our dues. It’s time. We’re embracing this change.

Now….if I can only get used to him being around all the time and figure out when I’m going to write…..

Monday, March 22, 2010

First Love

I'm the blond sitting on the ground, and I don't have a clue what I'm wrapped up in or why. And the other girl with the long brown hair was my best summer friend in those days -- ah the adventures we had!

No, she was not my first love.

But Inky was. Inky is the marvelous dog pictured here. I don't remember what breed Inky was. He was black as midnight, black as, well, ink. Always with us, but not in an obtrusive way. If we fell when water skiing, Inky would swim out to "save" us. If we jumped off the raft, he jumped with us. He hiked wherever we hiked. When we started kissing boys, there was Inky, our chaperon, sitting beside us watching intently....and if the boys started grabbing and we made a noise he didn't like, Inky was known to gnaw an ankle or two. We took advantage of that once or twice, I remember.

Our cottage was a few cottages away from Inky's family and he would walk me home some nights, stopping at the edge of the woods that marked the boundary of my family's property. I was usually walking alone, and I greatly appreciated his company. I'd talk to him, tell him my problems and wish that Inky was MY dog. I wanted someday to have a dog just like Inky.

It took me nearly 40 years, but I finally found Rupert. Still, when I discovered this photo on my friend's Facebook page, all my feelings for my first dog love came flooding back to me and I wanted to bury my face in Inky's fur again. I've missed that dog so much after seeing this picture. And I'm thankful to have known Inky, for he led me to Rupert.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Great Acoustics + Full House = Command Performance by Mark Zane and Friends

Part Two: Onativia Church, LaFayette, NY

First Fridays at Onativia Church in LaFayette should not be missed. This lovely church provides the perfect stage, and Mark Zane brought his usual suspects with him to entertain on March 5th. Once again Mark packed the house and delighted us with his choice of covers and the originals we have come to love.

Bill Chernoff and Frankie Diamond accompanied Mark on guitar and provided engaging guitar leads throughout the night. We’ve come to anticipate an outstanding performance from Steve Pederson on bass; he never fails to live up to our expectations and was especially fun to watch at this performance, his bass notes clear and precise. Mary Snell added her lovely voice to several songs, giving us those goose bumps during the chorus of “Pink Houses”. When Mary and Mark sing “In Spite of Ourselves”, you forget for a moment that Iris DeMent and John Prine ever sang it. JimBob and another young man playing the ukulele helped Mark and Friends out on a rousing version of “Country Roads” that had most in the audience singing along, too. We enjoyed “Friend of the Devil” and “The Weight” very much, and sang Mark’s original “Walk it Off” as we headed to our car.

The hit of the evening? Every song rang true. It’s so wonderful to see a performance where those playing are comfortable, are enjoying themselves, are accomplished musicians and deliver a fine performance. Everything came together for this performance. It’s difficult to pick out a highlight of the evening; it seemed to be over too soon. We wanted to hear more and more and more.

If I had to pick a favorite song of the night, though, it would have to be Mark’s cover of “Hallelujah”. I never get tired of hearing him sing this. He always seems to get the words right. He nails it. And singing it at Onativia Church, where the acoustics are lovely and the words seem to swirl around the room with the notes chasing after them….the perfect song.

First Fridays at Onativia United Methodist Church in LaFayette. They pass the plate to pay the musicians. Be generous. They serve great desserts, too, for a donation. It’s a chance to hear great music without the noise of drunken laughter and loud conversations drowning out the music. Go. You’ll love it. Music starts at 7:00, goes until around 9:30. 6257 Dodge Road at the corner of Apulia Road. Just off Route 20. That cute little white church you always wondered about as you drove by. Well, check it out on First Fridays. You won’t be disappointed.

Put it on your calendar now – the First Friday of 2011 – Mark Zane and Friends will return. You’ll want to be a part of the full house then.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Angst

I hardly ever wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Or any other day, actually. It’s not one of my favorite colors. I imagine there might be a touch of Irish blood running through me, as I am predominantly of English descent. Still, wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day was more than frowned upon in our house; it was absolutely forbidden.

Both of my grandfathers were born and raised in England, coming to the United States as young men to start new lives in the early 1900’s. One grandfather was actually sent here at the age of sixteen because his parents – he never saw them again – feared for his life. Life in the border town he lived in was suffering from the battling Protestants and Catholics. My grandfather wanted to take part in these battles. His father put him on a ship to America instead, with a note to a friend saying that said his son would be willing to tend to the cows on his friend’s farm in return for a bed and meals. This began a very successful farming career for my grandfather, as well as a life-long hatred of Catholics, particularly if they were also Irish. My other grandfather, although he had lived in a calmer part of England, shared the same views.

I was bombarded with this thinking as a young child, raised as an Episcopalian, told to wear orange to school on St. Patrick’s Day. I dreaded going to school on St. Patrick’s Day. I was even more of a misfit on that day.

One of my aunts married a Catholic; his last name was Sweeney. My grandfather refused to walk down the aisle and give her away. I was in third grade when the wedding took place and didn’t understand much of the conflict within the family then, only that my aunt stood her ground. That marriage lasted more than nearly fifty years, until my aunt’s death, and would still be going strong today. My grandfather realized his error in judgment later in his life.

My other grandfather, who scorned anyone not of "English stock”, also came to understand that diversity brought treasures into your life. My German Baptist grandmother probably had much to do with turning him around.

As a teenager, I was forbidden to attend dances at St. Mary’s School. And I wanted to go to those dances in the worse way. Other high schools played records at their dances; St. Mary’s had live bands. My boyfriends played in those bands. Of course, I went anyway. The only reason my parents did not want me to go was because Catholic kids went to that school – as if I had no classmates in my school who were Catholic? The Caugheys? The Kelleys? The Shanahans? They might have been in a Catholic church once or twice. I went to every dance at St. Mary’s that I could get to and I think this was one of the first times I felt justified in disobeying my parents.

There is no doubt in my mind that my grandparents’ strong religious views had a lasting impact on my own desire to learn about all religions and not judge any yet not subscribe to any particular religion myself. I’ve never found any that really fits with how I think anyway. And I’ve been quite happy living this way. If I had to choose, I’d be a combination of Pagan, Buddhist and Jew. I can only imagine what my grandfathers might have to say about that but believe they would have come to acceptance.

Today I do not wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and pretend I am Irish like most of the world does, although I am supportive of others who can. I would not think of wearing orange either. I wear whatever I want and think of my grandfathers who harbored hatred yet learned to cast it out of their hearts and be more understanding of those who were different. It gives me hope that it’s never too late for others to learn this, too.

Monday, March 15, 2010


This is the title of a book by Daniel Quinn I’ve come to read later than others. My son finally forced it into my hands a couple of days ago. He’s been urging me to read it for a two or three years now. There was a time when we communicated most effectively by his saying “Mom, you have to watch this movie” and I’d rent a skateboarding indie film. I’d usually end up understanding some issue he was struggling with, often hearing a character in the film say what I felt Darek might be having trouble telling me. I’ll admit it: I saw some awesome movies I’m certain I would have passed over had it not been for his urging me to watch them.

The same might be said about this book, Ishmael. I am anxious to get to the library to borrow the sequels. And if they are not available, I may break my “no buying new books” rule I’ve had since I stopped working and make a trip to Barnes and Noble to get them.

I read this book in less than two days, picking it up every chance I got. After the first couple of chapters I said to my husband, “I’m not getting why Darek was so enthralled with a talking gorilla.” A couple of hours later my husband noticed that I’d finished more than half of the book. “I take it the gorilla stopped talking?” “Well…..”

It’s difficult to argue with the basic premise of this book. No doubt Darek knew I’d be drawn to it as a past employee and long-time advocate of Planned Parenthood. I see how it has shaped his current politics and the way he’s trying to live his life. More people should read it, that’s for sure.

My only disillusionment came this morning when I did some on-line research and found Daniel Quinn’s website. I realize that his book is a work of fiction, and yet it takes on a quality of “fiction that can change the world”. And in it he claims that prophets are not necessary, and yet his website is set up in such a way to make him appear to be – dare I say it? – a prophet. This takes away from the message of his book, just a tad, in my humble opinion. And that’s a shame.

Yet, I’m going to read more. And think more. Isn’t that what good books are supposed to make us do?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Day With the Youngest Granddaughter

Had an unexpected treat yesterday....an afternoon with Gwendolynn, seen here wide eyed and loving her world.

It's such a pleasure to see my son being a responsible dad. He is Mr. Mom during the week while Gwen's mom works and then lead guitar player in Ruination on the weekends. Life seems good for them. How could it not be with this little sweetheart around?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Great Acoustics + A Full House = Command Performance by Mark Zane and Friends

Part One: Burritt’s Café, Weedsport, NY

This charming café located at the corner of NYS Routes 34 and 31B serves the best seafood bisque this side of Doug’s Fish Fry. We met my cousins there for dinner and stayed to hear Mark Zane and Friends play. I’d invited my cousins to meet us there (they live in the Auburn area, we live in Syracuse) because we don’t see each other often and it was a convenient meeting place. They are a little older then we are, much more conservative politically, but we love them and I’d been missing them.

I wasn’t sure they’d take to Mark’s music and actually expected them to make an excuse to leave at some point during the gig. We had a front row seat. My cousins were soon singing along to the covers Mark played and listening closely to the lyrics of this originals. They were so tuned into him, one cousin leaned over after Mark played “Knuckleheaded Fool” (go to www.myspace/markzane1.com to hear this song) and said to me “He looks so young! I can’t believe he’s been married three times!" I was glad that Mark then explained that he teaches sociology and his songs were not all autobiographical. My cousins each ended up buying a CD and asked me to keep them posted on future gigs Mark might have at Burritt’s. They particularly liked his cover of “House of the Rising Sun/Amazing Grace” and hope it finds its way onto his next CD. His originals made their way into their hearts, too. Later they told me they sang, “Is There a Banjo in Your House?” as they were driving home.

The café was standing room only by the end of the night. The sound system at Burritt’s is first class. The audience doesn’t miss a note. Steve Pederson’s bass rang clear and it was so nice to hear him. Steve adds such a delightful accompaniment to Mark’s guitar. Steve and Mark are perfecting their stage moves; my cousins were amazed that Mark and Steve didn’t trip over any wires as they were jumping and moving their guitars up and down in sync. We love the guitar ballet them perform! Paul Marconi and his harmonica added the perfect touch to many a song. Paul seems to get better and better each time we hear him play. Frankie Diamond jumped up there on stage with the boys, too, and played some very nice lead guitar. (If only Mary Snell hadn’t been sick and could have been there to sing a song or two.)

Before we knew it, the night was over and we were driving home, “Ruby” and “Bethlehem” and “Utica” playing still in our heads. No matter how many times we hear these songs, they always sound fresh, the message is still there, they entertain and make you think and stay strong. And the tunes are so catchy; you just have to keep on humming them!

Thanks, Mark and Friends, and the wonderful staff at Burritt’s café, for an evening to remember!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When Good Employers Go Bad

I've seen in coming. In the name of change, no one was paying much attention to what was going to happen when something was questioned. If there's a relaxed, laid back atmosphere to a workplace, it can be a lovely thing. However, sometimes this causes responsibilities to get blurred.

The workplace I'm writing about has undergone a change in management. Basically, some "young guns" have assumed power after about a two year time period when the business appeared to run itself as its founder was ill and subsequently passed away. These youngsters, while successful in areas of the business they may have run, have very obviously never opened up a book on managing personnel.

One of the soundest pieces of advice I ever received was from my mentor, Frances Mercer, my Executive Director at Association for Retarded Children wayyyyy back when. She never, ever reacted to a complaint about staff until she had heard it three times from three separate sources. Even then, she would have a talk with the person the complaint was about before taking any action. This one piece of advice is directly responsible for any success I've ever had in the world of human resource management. It's a piece of advice I wish I could pass along to the young men trying to manage a workplace now who are reacting rather than managing situations, and perhaps not listening proactively.

No employee -- whether it's their first day on the job or their ten thousandanth day -- should ever be put in the position where they are blindsided by an employer regarding their job performance. That should only happen on episodes of Survivor. I would caution others who work for employers who do not consider coaching their employees a vital component of managing. Who wants to work any place where communication is not open, honest and effective? Sure it might be fun to have everything seem laid back, but not when it's your back's against the wall and someone else has put it there unfairly and no one has heard "the other side of the story".

And, trust me, there's always another side to the story. Often, it's the side you haven't heard yet that holds the largest amount of truth. If the "young guns" trying to run this company don't learn this soon, they aren't going to have much of a company left to run. Once good employees leave because they aren't treated fairly, word gets out. It's a smaller world than we think. There are some egos that need to be reined in here. Before it's too late.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Tuesday at Sugarpearl

I write better while listening to music. As I write this, I'm sipping tea at Sugarpearl Espresso Bar and Lounge, located at the corner of Burnet and Crouse in Syracuse, NY. It's been a lovely addition to my neighborhood.

While sipping my tea I am absolutely enjoying listening to my friend Melissa Clarke's cover of James Taylor's "Steamroller Blues. It's making my toes tap. She knows how to work the guitar, that's for sure! It's one of my favorite blues tunes, when done right, and she's doing it right.

So -- you might ask -- isn't this a distraction, to be listening to live music and writing at the same time? Oh, yeah, definitely sometimes. But in a good way. Usually I can still find my words and scribble away. I've written the first two stanzas of a new poem before turning to this blog post while listening to Melissa. I listen to CDs at home while writing, why not live music? It inspires me in an entirely different way.

I once wrote an entire poem beginning to end while listening to the Barrigar Brothers play at the Red and White Cafe in DeRuyter last summer. I enjoyed them tremendously, although they cast me curious glances throughout the evening. I like the poem I wrote, hardly edited it at all.

Mark Zane has often found me scribbling in my notebook while watching him perform. I think singer-songwriters in particular understand: when the muse arrives, we open our arms to her, wherever we might be. Mark has even written a song about this called "Is There a Banjo in Your House?" Hopefully it will appear on his next CD. It is about the odd times that inspiration strikes us.

I find inspiration in the rhyme schemes of others, in subjects they've been drawn to write about, in the magic woven between their lines.

And so I'm loving this Tuesday lunch hour at Sugarpearl. Melissa has been singing some Beatle songs, a lovely, haunting version of Mary Chapin Carpenter's 9/11 song "Grand Central Station, some Leonard Cohen, Lucinda Williams and John Prine covers as well as her outstanding originals: "Spirit of America", "What's In Me" and "Women at Work" (and I apologize for probably getting the titles wrong.) I loved one she wrote about her mother-in-law who is suffering from dementia, which takes on the tone of a modern day love song; its lyrics pull you in, take you into the pain of such a relationship, and the joy.

What a delightful treat this was for me today, in addition to the sun shining for the second day in a row. I could nod my head and believe it when Melissa sang, "Here comes the sun...do, do, do, do."

I'll be back another Tuesday...even if it may mean skipping my writing group. Thanks, Melissa!
And thanks Phyllis and Deb for providing lunch time music for the neighborhood.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stay Tuned....I'm Not Done Yet

Changed my mind. Rethinking the finding another job....for a number of reasons. It seemed I had what might have been the perfect gig for me, part-time where I could make my own hours in a small, non-profit environment, but the woman who had the job decided not to leave it. Oh well. I can keep my eye out for other opportunities.

So....I'll continue to write.

And I've lots to say. Mark Zane has been playing some awesome concerts at Burritts Cafe in Weedsport and last night at Onatsvia Church. We had the pleasure of seeing John Prine recently in Ithaca. I've been wandering down to Sugarpearl to hear Joanne Perry sing and Melissa Clarke starts singing there next week....and I'll be reading poetry at their Open Mic next week.

I'm too tired from a wonder night at Onatavia last night...have to check the spelling on that before I do another post on it. It's a wonderful venue. I said it before when we were blessed to see Donna Colton play there last summer. First Fridays....go if you get a chance. I'll post directions when I write about last night another time.

Just wanted you to know I'm back.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And So It Ends.....

Benjamin Franklin said, "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

When I stopped working four years ago, it was largely due to health reasons but also to give myself an opportunity to write. I got healthier; I wrote. My writing took me places I never expected to go, including into the fray of a writing group whose members have become an alternative family to me. I will miss them.

There was a compromise made when we decided to live on one half of our income. I stopped buying books and new music. We no longer traveled or helped the kids out when they couldn't pay their phone bills. My cooking skills improved as we dined out less. Chris came home for lunch every day. I've worn the same blue jeans for the last four years (happily, I have to wear a belt with them now, and need to add a new hole to keep them up.) We haven't bought new underwear, new furniture, new linens for the bed.

Yet, we've been happy. I haven't had to deal with office politics and Chris hasn't had to deal with me dealing with office politics. I didn't have to fire anyone in four years. That felt good. We made a bunch of new friends getting involved with songwriting people, going out to hear more live music, going to poetry readings. We adopted Rupert and he's taken us on a delightful puppy ride, has turned into the dog we both always wanted. Yes, we're happy.

BUT......you knew there was a 'but' coming, didn't you? I stopped doing much of anything worth writing about. I've spent so much time with my head down in my office, I've lost track of what's going on in the world. Recently I realized how much I once liked going to work every day and making a difference in someone's life. My poetry certainly hasn't done that. My novels still sit on the shelf in my office.......and so.....

I'm searching the want ads, trying to find a place where I might fit in and weave the magic I know is still within me to make an agency, a small company, a physician's office run efficiently, to focus staff on working coherently, to motivate employees and employers to listen to one another and work together for the common good. I was good at it once; I can do it again.

Maybe words for my poems will come again at night and I'll start losing sleep again.

So, I am ending this blog. For me it was my "morning notes"....my adaptation of Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way", a book I could never fully dive into, although I found some inspiration there.

Thanks to those of you who have read me whether you've left me a comment here or sent me an e-mail. I've always appreciated it! I wish you sunny days ahead.

Friday, February 12, 2010

OCC Songwriters....

What a pleasure it was to attend the Onondaga Community College Songwriters Night! Such talented musicians sharing their songs and talking a bit about what they wrote and why.

A youngster in the audience wanted to know how the songwriters wrote their songs and the discussion went something like this (I'm doing some paraphrasing here...sorry, guys).

Dan Cleveland: I'll have a snippet of words, a phrase that runs around in my head and then I'll build a song around it, find a melody.

Sean (I can't remember his last name) : I work on chord progressions, find out what key I'm playing in, build it in a scientific way and then add lyrics.

Mark Zane: I always hear the melody first, sing nonsense words to that melody for awhile until other lyrics begin to take place of the nonsense words, then I work on other lyrics.

Brian Francis: I sacrifice a bunny.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


"Books aren't written. They are re-written." Michael Crichton

The same may be said of poems and songs.

We all have different styles of writing, but I sincerely doubt that any song I've ever heard at the Songwriters Woodshed is the writers very first draft. I know that my poet friends and I wrestle with our words in isolation, struggling to polish them and when we glimpse that first sparkle, only then do we feel it might be alright to actually show a poem to someone else.

I am constantly rewriting, even poems that have been published never seem "done" to me. I have to force myself to hit the "save" button, walk away from the desk, convince myself that I will never find a better word than "agonize" and move on to something else.

Lately I've been dreaming in words. When I'm first waking up, wondering if it's 3:00 a.m. or if I've been blessed with a full night's sleep, there will be a snippet of a poem right there for me to catch. I'm getting better at actually writing it down, keeping a notebook by the bed. And I've turned these snippets into reasonable poems....but usually not without a ton of rewording. The original concept remains the same, however.

I've asked myself several times why some of the songwriters do not appear to be more open to critique of their work when presented at the woodshed. I think I understand now, at least I think I understand how some of them might feel. The concept is of a song is theirs. They've lived with it, reworked it, spent hours or even weeks trying to convey the emotion they felt, something experienced, or to tell a story that's important to them. And when they finally feel they've "got" it, they play it in front of this group and then -- wham -- that group wants to add their take....all in good faith with the desire to make it better....when the author already feels it's almost as good as it's going to be. Not a word gets rewritten.

I haven't been to the Songwriters Woodshed in a few months because I felt the critique hasn't been meaningful, was too picky, not worthwhile. But I think now it's not the critique that was the problem. It was the quality of the songs being critiqued: they were too good, too finished. They don't need much rewriting, so there's not much for the group to focus on. I hope next time I go to hear more raw material, more that needs to be rewritten.

"You have to write down what you'll abandon." Leonard Cohen.

So true.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Best Lyric I've Heard in a Long Time

I don't even know where I got this tape...it's a compilation. There's a song done by an artist called Franklin Pierce called "Deep and Meaningful" and the lyric that caught my attention as I'm writing today is:

"You were so deep, you're almost underground."

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Old LPs I'm Listening to This Week....

How Come The Sun.....................Tom Paxton
Tom Rush......................................Tom Rush (has Panama Limited on it,, love that song)
Politics............................................Tom Paxton
Child of the Future.......................The Steve Miller Band
A Live One....................................Loudon Wainwright III
Mr. Bojangles................................Jerry Jeff Walker
After the Gold Rush.....................Neil Young
Still Crazy After All These Years..Paul Simon
Collection: 15 of the Best..............Queen
A Salty Dog...................................Procol Harum
Still the Same Ole Me.................George Jones
After Bathing at Baxter's............Jefferson Airplane
Nashville Skyline..........................Bob Dylan
In the Wind....................................Peter, Paul and Mary
Honeysuckle Rose........................ Willie Nelson and Family
Pink Cadillac..................................John Prine (can't get enough of this one...)
In Search of the Lost Chord........Moody Blues
Hold Out.........................................Jackson Browne

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A New Poem

in memory of Priscilla and others who almost got it right

Release yourself
Claim defeat
It won’t cure you
What startles us, makes us needier
The softer they are, the closer they fly
And the late larks only get the snake
Life’s too long to hold a secret
Toss pepper over your elbow
Do think twice
Throw that toddler in with the bath water
Count hatched chickens and every penny tossed
Grab your umbrellas, honey, it’s raining crickets
Just like Grandma always said it would someday
And these little pictures grew big rears
Heard and often seen
Found in the last place looked
Right where they left us
Afraid we’d turn out just like them
Afraid maybe we wouldn’t
Apples to raisins
An eye for your tooth
Truth in lend me your nose
I’ll take Manhattan

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What's In A Name? Remembering Dad....

A friend of mine just lost her father. Whenever I get news such as this, I am reminded of my own loss. Usually my mind takes me directly back to those last hospital days, the funeral, the eulogy I delivered, all the dysfunctional family moments. However, as time passes, I find myself remembering some of the other moments that encompassed life with Dad. I’m hoping my friend finds comfort in similar moments she’s had in the past with her dad, not just these last days.

My father was never one to get names straight, often making up strange versions of real names or giving someone a new name. After we had seen the movie “The Graduate”, we went to our local music store and he asked for the album by “Simone and Carbuncle”, the guys who sang that song about Joe DiMaggio and Mrs. Robinson. (Yes, I saw that movie as a teenager with my dad; my mother had just left us and my dad and I were seeing a lot of movies together in those days. It was that or another run at “The Sound of Music”….)

I have one brother, Alan, and my father called us both “Rob Al”. That was so he wouldn’t get us mixed up. When my son, Darek, was born, Dad decided that “Silas” was a better choice of a name for him and called him that for so long that we finally had to ask him to stop because Darek wasn’t answering to his own name. (In Dad’s last years, the cat that kept him company on his bed was named Silas.)

Dad never got a handle on my daughter’s name: Livia. From the day we first took her to visit her Grandpa he christened her “Libia” and there was no going back.

One evening I was returning from our cellar with a load of laundry. My son was playing with Leggos or trucks or something in one corner of the living room but Livia, who was no older than four, was sitting crossed legged on the floor intently watching television. This was not usual as I had tuned into a new station in anticipation of a pending presidential press conference. I had missed the beginning of the speech, arriving back in my living room just in time to hear Ronald Reagan say these immortal words (at least in our family) as he pounded his fist against the podium in front of him: “And we intend to take strong measures against Libya.”

There was a howl from my daughter, instant tears and she turned to me, sobbing, “What did I do wrong? Why is the President so mad at me?”

Of course I was laughing, which made matters worse, and immediately called my dad, and the family has laughed about this on several occasions since. We still call her “Lib”. For years she turned the channel of the television or left the room if Ronald Reagan was on the screen; I’m betting she doesn’t vote Republican largely because of this episode, too.

But that’s the memory I’m thinking about today, the lasting impact Dad’s crazy way of renaming all of us still has on our lives. So much better than remember those hospital days.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wonder Dog Misbehaves

I’m a bit befuddled this morning after my walk with Rupert.

We walk at least three times a day, usually taking the same route through the neighborhood. Rupert is very protective, and that’s exactly why we have a dog. He is a mixed breed: part black Lab and part pit bull. We have spent hours training him to be a well-behaved, dog; he’s earned his Good Citizenship Degree from Pet Co. He can be scary looking, but once you get to know him, he’s a sweetie pie. He's extremely loyal, loves to play, is eager to please.

This morning he was doing his usual sniffing of trees and utility poles – we call that Rupert picking up his “pee mail” – and we were making our rounds with no problem. Someone from the alcohol rehab house on our block bounded out of the house and was running down the street to catch up with some folks ahead of us. Rupert started getting upset about his behavior and I took him to the side of the house and settled him down. No problem. We continued on our walk.

There was some kind of work crew on Hawley Avenue putting up new utility poles and I short leashed him through that section of the street, just in case, and we had no problem.

Rupert sniffed his way past the church and I saw a young woman approaching who we’ve passed a dozen times before. She wears a funky cap and is always pleasant. I do not know her, but we always say hello. I short leashed Rupert, had him by my side as she passed, more because it’s winter and the sidewalks are narrower. I did not think I needed to take him off the sidewalk. Bad decision on my part.

She said “Good morning” to me and Rupert lunged at her, nipped at her arm. Had she not had a heavy winter coat on…oh, I can’t type what I think might have happened. I apologized and she went on her way. I think I was more upset than she was. I made that dog lie down and stay there on that snowy sidewalk until he started shaking from the cold and said ‘Bad dog’ just once in that tone of voice my children know oh so well and Rupert, too, knew I was at the end of my rope. When I couldn’t stand being cold any longer, I short leashed him and we headed for home. No more sniffing, no snowball tossing and catching, just walking straight home.

He is sleeping downstairs, hasn’t come up to see what I’m up to here in my office upstairs. Guess he knows he’s on my $##@ list this morning. But I’m wondering why someone speaking to me is interpreted as aggressive behavior by him. Perhaps I am spending too much time alone? He’s fine when friends drop in, and we have folks here often. I’m puzzled. Any suggestions?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Under My Thumb"

I am listening to the Rolling Stones today. At the moment I have “Sympathy For the Devil” blasting way too loud. I am wishing beyond hope that I could dance to this, but even before it was discovered I have issues with disintegrating discs in my lower back, I wasn’t much of a dancer. I’m singing along though, although some might have issue with my definition of “singing” if they could hear my screeching.

I’m reminded of a friend of my first husband’s, the only one of his friends I actually liked, whose name was Mike. Mike and I shared a love of music. He had an extensive collection, similar to mine. However, I had very little music of the Rolling Stones and he offered to record some for my listening pleasure.

“There’s just one condition,” he said. “I refuse to record ‘Under My Thumb’ for you.”
I could not imagine why. It was definitely one of the songs I’d scratched onto the list he had been scrutinizing. I imagined myself dancing around to it once the kids had gone to sleep and my then husband had driven off to the bars and I had the house to myself.

Typically I am drawn to songs with interesting lyrics. The Stones don’t really fill that criteria for me; they are much more about the sound and the rhythm. I remember at that time NOT wanting to listen songs with lyrics about how people were dealing with love gone wrong….I just wanted to dance when no one was looking, work out some of the anger I was hiding, some of the excess energy I had in those days. I wanted to wear myself out so I could go to sleep and not think about all the steps I had to start taking to get out of my lousy marriage and on with my life.

I remember pleading with Mike to add that song. “No way,” he said. “It degrades women. I hate that song. I just won’t do it. Especially for you.” I think that his words somehow spurred me onto taking the first steps I needed to find my way out of that marriage and I’m so glad I’m where I am today.

He warmed my heart that day, made me hope that someday I’d find someone just like him (and I did) and consequently, every time I hear that song now, I’m reminded that good men do exist. It’s the next song on the LP I’m playing. I’m going to turn it up loud and dance and sing. Yeah, the lyrics suck….but I know I’ll never be under anyone’s thumb ever in my life. And I’ll always thank Mike for not putting that song on the tape he made for me way back then.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sweet Music at Sugarpearl Espresso Bar and Lounge

This blasted back pain has kept me from doing so many of the things I love lately. It’s about all I can do to walk Rupert and tend to my “housewife” chores. One of the things I’ve missed most has been going to Sugarpearl to listen to musicians I know perform during the lunch hour.

Sugarpearl Espresso Bar and Lounge is a funky little café owned by one of my neighbors a few blocks away. They serve primarily vegan food that even a meat lover like moi can appreciate, along with a gigantic cup of tea perfect for warming my hands after my walk over there. I often read poetry there, sometimes hosting their Poet Provocateurs evening of spoken word, recently moved to the second Wednesday of the month. I’ve been fortunate enough to make new friends here, run into old friends, catch up on my knitting while resting on the sofa in the back room, listen to friends play music or simply find a haven from my everyday life.

For several Wednesdays from 11:30 until 2:00 p.m., Mark Zane played while he was taking a break from his teaching job. How spoiled I was to settle down on the sofa and just shout out whatever it was I wanted him to play for me!

Today, after almost a two-month absence, I journeyed down there to hear Joanne Perry play so many of her originals that I’ve come to love. When she asked for requests, I had a difficult time limiting it to only two or three, not wishing to be greedy. “From Here Ever After” is a song of Joanne’s I never seem to tire of, but I was so pleased that she played “I Dream In You” again for me, too. And, of course, her “One Moon Away” and “Shaky Ground” and “Memorial Day” would already be huge hits if the music world was a fair one. I loved her version of “The Dimming of the Day”, a favorite Richard Thompson tune, also. And then Wendy Ramsay played a cover of a Lori McKenna tune and did “Rebound”, one of her originals she can never sing often enough, plus others I’ve forgotten now because my brain is too tired to remember it all. But I loved each and every note played and sung, especially the harmonies of these two singer-songwriters. Ah, it was simply a lovely way to spend a wintry afternoon, and I was so happy I’d ventured out!

So, my neighborhood buddies, you’re missing some amazing music at lunchtime if you’re not dropping by Sugarpearl! Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday. And Sunday jazz brunch, of course. You already know Phyllis and Deb know how to cook! Why not come join me for lunch next Thursday, when Wendy Ramsay will be the featured artist? I guarantee you’ll love her quirky originals. I’ll save you a seat. And then come back another Thursday to hear Joanne, or a Friday to hear Brian Francis, Barley Wine on Tuesday or whoever they get to take Mark’s place on Wednesday. Just come on down…..you’ll leave smiling, I promise! Where else can you get live entertainment, tasty food that’s good for you, and that wonderful neighborhood atmosphere? Sugarpearl.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I realized today that’s what I am: an orphan.

My mother, granted not much of a mother, passed away in 1999. I’d be telling lies if I didn’t say that I still long to tell you we had a typical mother/daughter relationship, that her lessons were many, that I miss her and wish I could talk with her every day. I certainly miss the thought of her, wish we could push a “reboot” button and try again.

My biological father, a ghost from the surface of my childhood, is long gone, vanished into a pool of resentment that I have surfaced from because, had it not been for him, my love of books might not have blossomed, and for that I owe him thanks.

My real father, the man who raised me through thick and thin, has been gone for six years now. His illness lasted a very long thirteen years. As I listened recently to friends dealing with parents going into nursing homes, etc., I recalled planning weekend events around when we’d visit with Dad. Today I wish visiting with Dad meant anything other than pulling the weeds around the plaque in the ground at the cemetery in Owasco.

And two years ago I lost my Aunt Gretchen, my mother substitute. She knew when it was time to give me a call, usually at the very moment when my hand was on the phone to call her. And she usually knew what words to say to mend whatever was falling apart. I still need to talk to her every day and there’s no one else to take her place. If there was some huge disaster, her husband would come to my side, but he wouldn’t “be there” as she was. No one else ever could be.

I’m the oldest sister, the oldest cousin, the one others come to for direction. Often I am a good listener, and I’ve been through the woods a few times, even coming out the other side with only a few bumps and bruises, so my advice can be worthy at times.

But I’m feeling those old orphan blues today. No one to talk to. No one who really understands. That’s why I like listening to music so much….and today I put in Loudon Wainwright III’s “The Last Man on Earth’” CD. And listened to his song “Homeless”. He must have felt the same way the day he wrote these lyrics:

“When you were alive I was never alone
Somewhere in the world there was something called home
Now I feel like I’m homeless
But I will be alright
I’ll get through the days
I’ll get through the nights.”

It's what we orphans do.