Feel Like Talking?

Rats.  I feel like talking, but there’s no one to talk to.

I tried calling my mom first – she’s usually my first call when I feel like chatting, or when I need someone to take my mind off things that are bothering me.

But her phone’s been busy for the past 30 minutes.

So I tried my friend Pat, who left me a message on my answering machine at home, saying she was thinking about me and just wanted to say hi.

But she wasn’t home.

Then I tried my friend Millie, my BFF as the kids would say.  Although I was a bit reluctant to talk to her because I’m going to have to give her an answer (soon) about whether I’m willing to return to Classical Bells next year  (which is actually one of the things I’m looking to be distracted from).

Anyway, she wasn’t home either.

So I guess I’ll talk to you.

You know who you are – my wise, wonderful blogging friends…Star, and Bella (both Bella’s), and Sherry, and June, and Deirdre, and Imelda, and Tammy, and Tara, and Anno, and …well, the list goes on and on.

At least one of you has to be out there to listen 🙂

So the past month or so has been a little crazy for me – some upheaval in my finances, some worries about my children, some decisions to make about my plans for the future.  Some of that is starting to settle down – the refinancing is over and done with, the kids are home safe and sound -and now I have to concentrate on me for a bit,  try and decide what shape I want the next year or two to take.

You know I’ve been mulling over this idea of a “me” year – actually a retreat of sorts, where I could spend my free time focused on writing or even on some new activity that might spark my interest.  For the last decade, music has been my alter ego.  Seriously, I almost feel as if I have this other identity – an action figure type character who peels off her sweats and tennies, pulls on her concert dress blacks and hurls herself onto the stage to create musical magic.

It’s a rush, it really is. 

But it’s also a lot of hard work to get there.  You all know I’m a perfectionist, which means I beat my brains out over every piece to make sure it’s perfect, to make sure no matter what goes on around me during the performance, that I will have my part down cold.

Part of me says, give yourself a rest from that. 

But…and you knew that was coming didn’t you?  But, what if I get bored? What if I sink back into that person I was 15 years ago, who hung around the house all the time, who didn’t have any social life, who was rather introverted and one dimensional and (dare I say) boring?

Because it’s really easy to stop striving, to pull back on the reins so far that you’re just loping along through life, especially if you have nothing providing that little kick in the butt to spur you forward.  

Sure, I enjoy days like yesterday and today, days when I’ve nothing more pressing than writing a post for Sunday Scribblings, or doing some laundry, or making dinner.  But would I want a whole year of those days?
Won’t I need more focus than that to keep me from sinking into old-ladyhood?

You know, going out into the wide world was never much encouraged in my family.  I don’t come from a long line of ambitious over-achievers.  Slow, steady, and above all, safe were the buzz words during my upbringing.  So it’s really easy for me to lay back and lay low, because that’s what my family would rather have me do.  And sometimes, even at my advanced age, it’s hard to go against the grain of those kinds of expectations.

I guess I need to think a little more about who I am, apart from the expectations of anyone else, and think about the things that make me the happiest even if they sometimes aren’t easily accomplished.

Gee, I’m glad we talked.




I have some quitting to do.

I know I told you I was done with my gig at the high school – and I am, I’m not reneging on that – it’s just that I haven’t made it official yet.

In other words, I haven’t quit.

I hate qutting.  I even hate the sound of the word.  It’s a hard, spitting, hateful word. 

It’s like no – another word I hate.

For me,  both words are associated with the end of somthing, and I’m much fonder of beginnings than of endings.  (That’s why I have half a dozen stories started in my creative writing folder and not one of them finished!)

I haven’t told anyone I was quitting partly because I didn’t want any end of the year hoopla about my leaving, and partly because I didn’t want to spoil any of the final concerts. 

But mostly because I’m a chicken.  That word tends to stick in my throat.

But I have to say to my friend Don (the new director at the high school)  – “I’m really sorry, Donny, but I can’t come back next year.  It’s time for me to move on.” 

Hey, there’s the sound of a beginning in there after all.  “Moving on” implies moving forward to something new and different, perhaps something even better.  After all, I’ve hung around doing this job far longer than I ever intended, mostly as a favor to my friends, and now I’m going to think about what’s good for me. 

Who knows what this moving on process will get me into.  But I’m going to quit being a coward about this and make my departure official so I can get on with the next phase of my musical life.


Meaning to Meme

It’s meme day here at the Byline, and you’re getting two for one.  I’ve been meaning to do the one Greenish Lady tagged me for a while back, and got sidetracked into writing an entire post about one question – go figure 🙂

Yesterday,  Anno has tagged me for a bookish meme, which should by rights appear on Bookstack, but is going here anyway.

So, here we go:

Greenish Lady Asks:

What were you doing 10 years ago: That’s the question that got me started on a tangent of deep thoughts about life.  But 10 years ago, I was preparing for my son’s high school graduation and imminent move to Florida.  I was doing a lot of music – bells, piano – and traveling quite a bit performing.  Other than that -same stuff as today.  Except minus doggies!

Five Things on My To Do List: I got a little hung up here, because I’m wondering if this is my everyday to-do list, or my life to-do list.  I’m going to consider it the latter, because I think that’s more interesting. 

  1. Be a grandmother, and the best one ever!
  2. Write and publish a novel (or two or three);
  3. Form a wonderful little chamber music group that performs to rave reviews all over the community;
  4. Live in a delightful cottage by the water where I can walk my dogs on the beach every day;
  5. Learn to really cook.

Things I’d Do If I Were A Billionaire: First, pay off all debts owed by everyone in my family.  Then establish a scholarship for students who want to study music and can’t afford it.  Then set up a foundation to care for homeless dogs and cats.  Then retire in the aforementioned little cottage by the water and enjoy being a grandmother, really cooking, and writing my books.

Three Bad Habits: 

  1. Procrastination;
  2. Excessive worrying;
  3. Impatience.

Five Places I’ve Lived:  This is funny, because in all my 52 years, I’ve only lived in two cities.  Melvindale, Michigan, and Redford, Michigan.  We have a home in Florida, but we only visit there sporadically. 

Five Jobs I’ve Had: Another funny one.  Do non-paying ones count?  Because that’s what most of mine have been!  Until I started working at my office job in 2001, I had only worked as a musician.  Everything else I did was strictly volunteer.

And now for the bookish meme, suggested by Anno:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.

The book at the top of my stack right now is The Other Side of You, by Sally Vickers.  I’m reviewing it for Curled Up With A Good Book, and so far I’m really enjoying it.  It’s a psychological mystery, and since I’m only on page 101, these sentences from page 123 are quite intriguing.

The gilded old French bed of carved walnut was graciously accommodating and the mattress, after Rome, was easy on hard-worked bones. 

“Do you have to go?” Thomas asked the next morning, watching her dress. “We can send for your things, or buy you new ones.”

The narrator of this passage is a psychiatric patient, committed to a hospital after a suicide attempt.  She’s been in the process of telling her life story to her therapist, a man whi is finding he has a great deal in common with this particular patient.

So, I’m quite itching to read on and see how she got to France with Thomas 🙂

I’m not tagging anyone in particular today – if you feel like playing, please consider yourself invited! 



Writer’s Island-The Return

“So we’ll see you Thursday night!”  my son said, calling on a cell phone from his in-laws home in Thailand just a few minutes ago.

“We’ll be there!” I assured him.  We booked tickets to Florida so we could pick them up at the airport upon their return from a month’s sojurn in their southeast Asian homeland.

It’s been quite a trip for them…I’ve written a bit about it here, and he’s also written about it on his own blog here.  They’ve been gone about a month, and we drove them to the airport when they left, certainly not knowing what we were sending them off to face.   Some obstacles, some health concerns, but also evidence of continued love and support from their families on both sides of the world, and a renewal of their common purpose and hope for the future.

They endured it all, proving once again that they are self sufficient, intelligent, noble young people, with a dream they are working toward and the will to make it happen.

So they return to the States- the two of them together – united in their commitment to life and to the future.

And some months from now, they will return to Thailand, perhaps to continue their journey toward creating a family of their own, or perhaps to celebrate that family already in the making.

Every journey sends us off into these realms of the unknown, whether it’s a physical journey across continents, or a spiritual journey within our hearts.   And with each return, we are wiser, stronger, more enlightened people.  What a gift, to be able to share the journeys with those who love us.

Returning, renewing, rejoicing…it’s what families are all about.

Visit Writer’s Island, to read other’s thoughts about returning.



Ages and Stages

One of my aunts had a favorite adage she used to explain her children’s behavior.  “It’s just a stage,” she said nonchalantly, when my cousin Michael took to wearing a cowboy hat and chaps 24 hours per day.  “It’ll pass.”   It became something of a joke in our family, and whenever someone was behaving badly, or feeling depressed, or being obnoxious in some way, we’d wave our hand in the air and say, “It’s just a stage – it’ll pass.”

Over the years, I’ve found that old saying quite comforting.  And, looking back on my life, particularly the childrearing years, I can see it was also very true.  One thing you learn from raising a child is that nothing lasts forever – not colic or dirty diapers, not even curfews and noisy rock music.  Child rearing is growth and change in action, and every part of it is a stage waiting to pass.

But how about adult life?  Do we go through stages there as well?  In the novel I’m reading, Lady of the Snakes, by Rachel Pastan, Jane Levitsky, the main character is visiting a former college professor and mentor who has decided to relinquish her academic career in favor being a full time mother to her three preschool age children. 

Don’t you miss it?” Jane asked, her voice barely audible above the baby’s clamoring and Abby’s angry protesting, and the sound of birds squawking in the next room.  “Don’t you miss having a career? An intellectual life?”

“Not much,” her friend replied.  “I think of this as a stage.  My housewife stage.  I had my intellectual stage; who knows what will come next”?

Interesting idea, isn’t it?  That we can divide our lives into functional stages – the intellectual stage, the housewife and mother stage, perhaps the learning stage or the creative stage, or the knitting stage, or the traveling stage…well, you get the idea.

It was a meme that set me thinking about this.  Greenish Lady tagged me for it last week, and the first question is “What were you doing ten years ago?”   In May of 1998, I was just about to embark on the empty nest stage.  My son was graduating high school and getting ready to move to Florida.  Additionally, I was also heavily involved in my musical stage, working as an accompanist and becoming a full time member of a professional handbell ensemble.  And it was music that helped me traverse the rough spots in that empty nest stage, by occupying my time in a fulfilling way and allowing me to build strong relationships with other women who have since become my dearest friends.

But I think ten years might be long enough to remain in this particular stage, and perhaps it’s time to pass on to the next.  Last night was my final concert at the high school where I’ve been accompanying since 1993.  I mean final as in “last and forever.”  (You might remember I’ve said that before, but this time I really mean it.)  And there isn’t one iota of regret about that decision – only relief, and a feeling of “been there, done that.”

And, although I left Classical Bells four years ago, I’ve been asked to consider returning for one year to join them on a performance tour of France in May 2009.  And though part of me thrills at the idea of performing in the American Church in Paris, another (much larger) part quails at the thought of the hours of rehearsal and performing I’d be in for during the months leading up to the trip. *shudder*

As I ponder these decisions, I realize the most appealing thought of all is spending time dedicated to my own quiet pursuits – writing, reading, walking, working on some music that I’ve chosen for myself, perhaps even taking a cooking class or learning to knit. 

Would there be a name for a stage like that?  And would I be incredibly selfish to endulge in it?

Perhaps I should simply give it a try – after all, it’s only a stage. 

It’ll pass.

How about you?  What stages have you gone through? 

Split Aparts

I’ve always envied those couples who say they’ve never spent a night apart during their marriage.  It seems so romantic, particularly in this modern world, to be able to return to each other’s side every night no matter where the day has taken you.

Sadly, Jim and I certainly will never achieve that goal.  We’ve spent many a night apart, not necessarily by choice, but simply by circumstance.  For many years, his job required him to travel, sometimes for weeks at a time.  And when I became more heavily involved in musical groups, I often traveled for outstate performances or festivals.   So over the years, we grew somewhat accustomed to being apart.

I say somewhat, because no matter how many times we were separated, we always felt a rather disconcerting sense of emptiness – a strange disconnect with ourselves.  There’s an old legend about lovers, something about each person having another part of themselves that somehow splinters away during birth.  The story goes that we are then constantly searching for our true love, the one person who is actually our cosmic “split apart.”

Whether that’s true of us or not, there is a very definite sense of emptiness about life when we’re apart, a kind of cold space (like they say ghosts inhabit) when we’re living in different places.  There’s no one to snuggle on the couch and watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond  with me, no one to kill the centipedes that pop up occasionally in the bathtub, no one whistling incessantly while they’re shaving, no one to sympathize with me when my boss is micromanaging things.  And while we may not always be consciously aware of it, we’ve both noticed that life is simply more stressful without the familiar presence of our mate to act as a buffer against life ‘s vicissitudes.

Fortunately, in the past few years our separate traveling has diminished considerably.  Last month when we went to Florida, I had to travel a day early, and that was the first night we had spent apart in – well, probably a year. 

But I’ve been remembering those other times because my son and daughter in law may soon be separated for a while, the first real separation since the years of their courtship when they lived in opposite hemispheres.  They’re a close couple in nearly every way, both homebodies who like to spend most of their time together.  Brian works at home too,  with Nantana a quiet, comfortable presence in the house during the day.  Certainly internet phones and email make long distance relationships easier than in the “old days,” when we had to rely on land line telephones with exorbitant charges for long distance.  But they can’t replace the physical companionship you become accustomed to when you share life with someone.  So I suspect if they do end up spending this rather significant period of time apart, they will feel a definite void in their daily life and routine, not to mention in their hearts.  

Of course, there are benefits to missing someone. I can’t deny the truth of that old adage…absence does make the heart grow fonder.  You tend to appreciate someone more when you’re deprived of their presence for a certain amount of time, and all those little irritating habits (like the aforementioned incessant whistling) become quite endearing when you haven’t suffered through  experienced them for a while.  The reunion is always sweet, and it’s fun to enjoy that honeymoon like feeling again, fun to recapture that sense of wonder you felt in the early days of your relationship when being together was like the greatest gift in the world. 

But, remember the part of the marriage ceremony (at least the traditional one) where the minister says, “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder?”   That’s a powerful invocation to the notion of split aparts, isn’t it?  Finally reunited with that perfect other half, it seems such a shame to put asunder that perfect whole, to split apart for even a few cosmic moments.  And so when I think of all the days and nights Jim and I have spent apart, I wonder if I’ll someday regret them, count them as a huge loss in the grand scheme of our time together? 

The strength of a relationship comes from the accumulation of experiences, good and bad.  But life is defintely easier when both halves of the whole are one, when the ragged edges of daily life are smoothed by the presence of that one person who best knows how to make the pieces fit. 


Sunday Scribblings-Soaring

A sweet breeze drifted through Kathleen’s car window, and she pressed the button to lower it completely with her left hand, while lifting a plastic travel mug to her lips with the right.  Only about ten minutes left, and she’d need to get on her way, but she waited patiently, sipping the last bit of her morning coffee, knowing she wouldn’t be disappointed. 

It had become a ritual now, stopping here at the pond every morning on her way to school, driving in along the dirt road and pulling up as close to the edge as she could.  She had a feeling the wild geese had come to expect her, for lately they hand’t been scattering immediately as they had when she first started coming, gliding away from the reedy shoreline with an irritated shhhush  in their hurried attempt to escape her intrusion into their peaceful morning.  Now they simply looked up at her, the pair of them slowly raising their long necks and staring at her with marked disinterest, as if to say, “Oh, it’s only that strange woman come to stare at us again.”

Kathleen propped her head against the headrest and watched them go about their morning routine.  The male surveyed the horizon while the female dove down for food, coming up every so often to shake her beak at her mate.  It was only April, so the babies hadn’t hatched yet, but Kathleen knew there would be a nest hidden somewhere along the creek bank. 

 Within a few seconds, she began to hear it, the first stirrings as they prepared to take flight.  It wasn’t really sound exactly, but sense, a feeling of portent, of expectation.  She couldn’t figure out what their signal was, but they seemed to know with the habit of many seasons together, just when the moment to take off would come.   Within a split second she heard the effort of their mighty wings, scooping the air beneath them in preparation for push off.  She was never quite sure how they accomplished it, for one minute they were assembled there in the safe cove near the shoreline, and the next they were aloft, their wings spread wide and working furiously until they reached the perfect spot in the air.  It was that moment, that sweet spot in the sky, which she came to see each morning, the spot where they began to soar.

Sighing, she let her eyes rest on their shadowy figures, already nearly lost to view on the horizon.  Her students would smile if they could see her, she thought, and they wouldn’t be a bit surprised that Mrs. Harkness visited a pair of geese each morning just to watch them fly across the horizon.  After all, wasn’t her classroom papered with inspirational sayings aimed at teaching her students to “take flight”?  “If you can dream it, you can do it,”  “What would you do if you knew you would not fail” and “Refuse to be average – let your heart soar as high as it will.” 

And it worked, too – seems she had a gift for inspiration.  Students were always coming back to the high school to tell her that. “I never would have made it if you hadn’t encouraged me,” they’d write on the Christmas cards which would come drifting in years later.  “You made me believe in myself,” they’d tell her, stopping by to visit at the end of a school year.

Kathleen smiled ruefully to herself.  “That’s all well and good,” she thought, “and certainly nice to know.  I just wish I could work some of that magic on myself.”

Fact was, Kathleen Harkness had nearly given up on herself, given up on feeling as if she could soar into life with her wings spread wide, master of the sky around her and the earth below her.  It was a talent only few could muster, she thought, and though she might be able to impart it to others, she couldn’t seem to awaken it in her own heart.

At least not anymore.  Not since she lost Henry.

And she never would have believed that her Henry, with his gentle nature and soft spoken smile, his contentment with life that sometimes irritated her for its plodding regularity – how had Henry become the inspriation for her soaring?   

But apparently he had.  For ever since that awful day last fall, that just plain stupid day when he sat down to dinner and looked up at her with this stricken, surprised expression on his face before he fell right onto the floor, dead – ever since that day, she had been as hidebound to earth as if her feet were made of clay.

Putting her little car into reverse, she backed up slowly and carefully, turning the wheel sharply to avoid the rocks placed along the edge of the path.  It was good she discovered this place, having passed it every day of her career with barely a second look, always in such a hurry to get to school, get her day started, get another project underway.  Now it seemed she needed more time to set her bearings each morning, to remember the feeling of soaring, even if it came vicariously from a silly pair of geese.

Pulling the gearshift into “drive,” she glanced into rearview mirror, but there wasn’t a sign of those geese anywhere on the horizon – not a speck. 

But she knew they would be there waiting for her in the morning.

for more on soaring, visit Sunday Scribblings