Week’s End

I’ve enjoyed my weekend – nothing special happened, and I suppose that’s what I enjoyed most about it.  We slept late on Saturday, spent extra time in our living room chairs drinking coffee and soaking up the (almost!) springish sun pouring in the front window.  Later in the morning, we walked the dogs at the park and then came home to my favorite lunch – tomato soup and tuna salad sandwiches.

In the afternoon, we made chocolate cupcakes – and when I say “we” I do mean both of us.  I figured if anything could persuade my husband to leave his leather recliner, it would be the promise of licking the bowl after the cupcakes were in the oven. 

Men are so childishly predictable, aren’t they?

Today was a bit more hectic, since the dogs had to be carted to the groomer’s, Jim had a concert at 4:00, and I had musical rehearsal at 6:00.  While I was waiting for Magic and Molly to be beautified, I hung out in Caribou Coffee and played with my new netbook computer, then wandered through Borders for a while, making mental notes of all the new books I’d like to add to my library request list.

But by the time my pups were ready to go home, I was tired of shopping and killing time.   It was raining, too, cold, bitter rain that was destined to turn to snow.  I had to hurry home, feed the dogs, shovel down some dinner, and then head back out into the wet and cold to a musical rehearsal.

Frankly, it was the last thing I wanted to do.  I’m the rehearsal accompanist for a local community theater production of Sweet Charity and have enjoyed it, but tonight I was tired and cold and the thought of curling up with a good book and two warm (sweet smelling!) puppy dogs was so much more appealing than sitting on a piano bench in a damp, dark theater.  But I dutifully drove to rehearsal and spent a couple of hours pounding out Rhythm of Life  and Hey Big Spender.

When I came out, my car was covered with a heavy, wet blanket of snow. 

Ich.   Several of us were out there, clomping around in the cold, white stuff, complaining one more time about the harshness of this Michigan winter and laughing at one cast member who had foolishly taken his snowbrush out of the car.  (Real Michigander’s know you’re never safe from snowfall until at least May.)

On the drive home, it occured to me how effectively the last two hours had re-energized me.  I was reminded once again of the restorative power of music, and the way a collarborative musical effort provides just the adrenaline rush I need when I’m feeling tired,  or down.   The life preserver at work once again. 

The week ahead is another busy one, with more rehearsals and a concert at my friend’s elementary school.  The snow is supposedly short lived, so I’m hoping the spring sun will be back tomorrow morning and make it all disappear by noon.


How about you? How was your week’s end?

Pounding on Walls

What is art anyway except not pounding on walls? 

This line jumped off the page of this book  last night, just before I dozed off to sleep.  At first, the meaning didn’t quite sink in.  After all, I was tired from a day of working and practicing, my cheeks were flushed and warm after sitting on my back porch in the sun (yes! Sun!) 

But suddenly I understood, you could even say I had one of those Aha! moments.  

So that’s what you’ve been doing lately, I said to myself.  You’ve been not pounding on walls.

Here’s the thing ~ in the past few months, my life has just exploded with artistic activity.  My rehearsal schedule is so complex I resorted to printing out monthly calendars for the next three months and color coding the different activities so I have a visual picture of where I’m supposed to be and when.  I have three authors who have emailed me with books to review, all hoping to do interviews/guest posts on Bookstack.  And completely unbidden are all these wonderful writing ideas that keep popping into my head at the most inopportune times, causing my fingertip to itch for a pencil and paper. 

You might think juggling all these balls would be overwhelming. On the contrary, I seem to have more energy than I’ve ever had before, as if all the neurons firing in my brain are recharging my metabolic battery rather than draining it.

This activity – the playing and writing, the going and doing – these are the things that have kept me from pounding the walls this winter, a season of frustration and disappointment and loneliness and distance and detachment.  It’s been art that has kept me sane.

We all need life preservers from time to time, something to hang onto when people fail us or life throws us for a loop, when happiness appears as a small speck on some far horizon, when plans go awry and the world goes mad.  At times like those, we can pound the walls in fury and frustration, or embrace the things that make life worth living, plunge headfirst into activities and passions that fulfill those empty places. 

I’ve been lucky to have a bevy of life preservers tossed toward me this winter.

And I’m hanging onto all of them.

How about you?  What keeps you from pounding the walls? What are your life preservers?

Black and White and Read All Over

Remember that riddle?  “What’s black and white and read all over?”

Answer: A newspaper!

Well, apparently not.

Just yesterday, I read about the demise of another black and white newspaper – the Ann Arbor News.  In two weeks, our local papers, The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press, will severely limit their production and curtail their home delivery service to weekends only.

I started loving newspapers way back when I was a toddler – seriously.  It was my job to get the paper off the porch each morning, and I remember being fascinated by the look of the big black, Old English letters on the masthead of the Free Press.  Before long, I was learning to read off those black and white pages, sitting on my grandad’s lap while he read me the “funny pages” as we called the comics.

It was  a small step from reading the paper to writing a paper.  One of my earliest “toys” was an old Remington manual typewriter like the one in the banner on my blog.  We kept it in the attic and I spent hours pounding away, writing “stories” for my own make believe newspapers.  Is it any surprise that I created a paper for my fifth grade classroom, or that I was the only eighth grader allowed to be in journalism in middle school?

I fell away from newspaper writing in high school – music occupied all my time there.  But I kept reading them, grabbing the Free Press off the porch every morning to get a first look at the news of the day, and read my favorite columnists – Bob Talbert, Nickie McWhirter, and then a young upstart guy named Mitch Albom (who wrote about sports but managed to relate them so well to life in general that I became a devoted reader.)

But sometime during the last 10 years my love affair with the newspaper ended.  It probably started when my Free Press carrier (no longer the neighbor kid down the street, but an adult driving by in a car during the wee hours of the morning) began throwing my paper at the end of our long driveway rather than putting it on the porch.   This meant I needed to put on some semblance of clothing before I could get my hands on the paper every day, and in the winter, it could also mean fishing the paper out of a heap of freshly fallen snow.

And then I began noticing there were more advertisements than stories, ads for cell phones and checking  account offers taking up entire pages that once held long columns of newsprint.  And the remaining news stories seemed poorly written, shorter and “dumbed down” for an audience with smaller attention spans and less education.

But of course the biggest death knell for my newspaper reading days was the advent of computer news.   There was all the news I needed to know – and then some – available at the touch of  mouse button.  

No smell of newprint or smears of ink on my fingers, but you can’t have everything, right?

Obviously electronic media are replacing the necessity for newspapers.  But as much as I love my computer, I sometimes miss holding the newspaper in my hand, the crackle of paper as I fold over the page and crease it down the middle.  I miss the stain left by my coffee cup when I set it down on the pile of read pages.  Miss tearing out a favorite cartoon, or clipping a column to save in my file of ideas for stories.

My friend L. is the biggest newspaper hound I’ve ever known.  He’s made  a daily ritual of  reading both Detroit papers cover to cover, first thing every morning.  At age 74, he’s not likely  to start reading them online.  In just a few days, when home delivery ceases, he’ll have to get in his car and drive to a newstand to get the paper.  I have no doubt that he’ll do that, probably taking his dog with him, at least for as long as these papers continue to publish their print editions.  His dedication to newsprint shames me a bit, me and my infidelity, my defection to the internet as my news source.   All this makes me wonder where news will come from twenty years from now, when I’m 74, what the relentless march of technological time has in store for me.  So far I’ve managed to keep up pretty well, but I wonder if  a day will come when I no can no longer comprehend how to operate the latest and greatest gadget, when I find myself stubbornly stuck in what has become hopelessly passe.

I’m saddened by the fact that newspapers aren’t read all over anymore, that even the word “news-paper” may someday become meaningless because the object it names is obsolete.   And I worry a little bit about what might become outmoded next.  But I realize there’s no stopping change  progress either, that the world moves on and sweeps us up in it, whether we like it or not. 

How about you?  Where do you read your news? Do you think electronic media will consume the newspaper entirely?

Cafe Writing

Garden writing is often very tame, a real waste when you think how opinionated, inquisitive, irreverent and lascivious gardeners themselves tend to be. Nobody talks much about the muscular limbs, dark, swollen buds, strip-tease trees and unholy beauty that have made us all slaves of the Goddess Flora. ~Ketzel Levine

Option Five: Pick Three

Pick at least three of the following words, and build a piece of writing around them. The form is up to you: poem, scene, flash-fic, essay, or general blog entry.

beauty, daring, inquisitive, irreverent, limbs, opinionated, strip-tease, unholy, waste

In terms of  seasons, I’ve always been a fall-ish sort.  I adore the flashy beauty of scarlet and golden leaves, the blustery winds that send me running indoors for a thick sweater.  And though some might consider it irreverent, I even enjoy the daring strip-tease nature provides, each tree baring its limbs to the pace of some unholy, internal music.  After all, what could be more daring than disrobing on the cusp of winter, baring your body and soul to the vicious ice and winds just ahead? 

If only I had courage like that, I sometimes think, pulling my own warm layers of clothing even more tightly around me.  Courage to stand naked in the coldest of days, to lay waste to all the trappings of life that weigh me down and leave my spirit cold and bare.  Courage to pare down to the essence of me, refine myself, and begin again.  That’s what intrigues me about fall ~ the idea of shedding the old, no matter how glorious and beautiful, to allow for regrowth in new, unforseen directions.  For humans, that process is complex and consuming, while the earth does it effortlessly, year after year.  

Perhaps someday I’ll learn to do it, too.

for March/April Cafe Writing, In the Garden

A Moment’s Pause

Amidst all the crazy busy-ness of my life over the past few days, the news of Natasha Richardson’s death certainly gave me a moment’s pause.  A freak accident, seemingly inconsequential, and in a few days the life of a vibrant and successful woman is over.  Looking at her smiling face in photos on the internet and television was a harsh reminder of the way in which life can change in an instant, all our hopes and dreams whisked away.   And I was reminded of another loss, another beautiful, talented young woman, a high school student I knew only too briefly, whose life was taken by a drunk driver on St. Patrick’s day, 2001.  I had stopped to glance at her photo just the other day, when I was at school waiting for rehearsal to begin, remembering her pure soprano voice and graceful poise.

Cruising down the expressway last night on my way to (yet another!) rehearsal, I looked into my rearview mirror and found it filled with the most spectacular view of the sun setting in a spectrum of apricot and turquoise.  I wanted to stop, turn around, and just let myself fall into that gorgeous sight, breathe in the stillness of that eternal process, the sun rising and setting each day, going about its beautiful business, while we rush madly about on the earth. 

But  I drove on, in a hurry as always to get to the next thing, do the next task, perform the next piece.

If you have a chance today, stop for a moment an admire something of beauty. 

Stop for a moment and enjoy this dance of life.

All About Me

Most years, my birthday passes by in a haze of activity – the first week of March is high school choral festival week so there are either rehearsals or actual performances on the day.  If the ninth falls on a weekend, our church bell choir often plays in church on that particular week, so I’m stuck there and can’t take the weekend off.

But this year, spurred partly by the Disney ads that offer free park admission on your birthday and partly by the overflow of points in our Disney vacation club account, we decided to take a week off, spend a few days (including my birthday) in Orlando, and then drive to Naples for the remainder of the week.

So last Monday, my actual birthday, was all about me.  I’ve been teasing people in my family with that phrase, because mostly my life is all about something or someone else…my family, my dogs, my job, my high school kids, my friends…but for that one 24 hours period, the day was mine. 

It was really nice. 

pict00972Actually, it  was glorious.  The Disney people always make you feel special – after all, that’s part of the magic – but even more so on your birthday.   They created a special little park ticket just for me, with “Happy Birthday, Becky” printed right on it.  And a button to wear as well, so that everywhere I went in the parks people were calling out “Happy Birthday!”  I passed lots of other folks of all ages wearing birthday buttons, too, and we were able smile and greet each other conspiratorially, part of the big March 9 birthday group.  All the restaurants gave me free desserts (the raspberry creme chocolate bombé at The Yachtsman Steakhouse was my personal favorite), and the servers at Les Chefs de France providing a rousing rendition of Bonne Anniversaire.   We went to all my favorite attractions in Epcot (The American Adventure, including listening to two sets of The Voices of Liberty, Test Track, and Spaceship Earth).  We had time to return to the hotel for an afternoon nap, and then took a cab (no Disney bus on my birthday, thank you!) to the Yacht Club where we feasted on pan seared scallops on a bed of white cheddar risotto(appetizer), eight ounce filet mignon with red wine mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes (entree), and the afore mentioned chocolate/raspberry bombé.  Afterward, we walked back into Epcot where we landed a prime viewing spot for the spectacular Illuminations fireworks/lights/music show which closes the park each evening.

I had so much fun being the center of attention, I cheated a little and wore my birthday button the next day too- and yes, I did get another free dessert (please don’t tell that handsome young server named Geoffrey in the Brown Derby  Restaurant at Hollywood Studios).

Once I would have shied away from all that hoopla, considering it foolish or even embarrassing.  But whether it’s  my advancing age or simply that I was starved for attention,  I lapped it all up like Molly would a dish of melted vanilla ice cream.   I even asked my husband to take pictures of me – and from someone who has run from the camera her entire life, that is a remarkable request.

Having life be all about me for a change was mmm, mmm good.

So why don’t I do that more often?

The world didn’t come to an end because I did what I wanted to do for a day.  I assume my family still loves me, that my job is waiting for me, and my name hasn’t been stricken from St. Peter’s list at the Pearly Gates (if it was even there in the first place.)

But the ever present voice in my head, urging me to be responsible, to think of others, to act humbly, be self-effacing, is very hard to resist.  On most days fighting it is futile, so I relinquish my own best desires, and sometimes my own better judgement, in service to my conscience, my work ethic, my sense of responsibility.   

Of course I don’t plan on suddenly becoming a totally henonistic being, oblivious to anyone’s need save my own.   But would it hurt to occasionally -at least more often than the annual birthday celebration- have life be all about me?

I celebrate myself, I sing myself – thus begins Song of Myself,  Walt Whitman’s famous poem.   I loaf and invite my soul…

That’s what I did on Monday, and what better day than a birthday to celebrate oneself? 

It was undoubtedly the best gift I’ve received in quite a while.

Now tell me… when was the last time you made life all about you? Isn’t it about time you did?

Celebrate Today

pict01361The last few days have been all about me – really, they have.  I’ve had such a marvelous time celebrating my birthday that I completely forgot about getting older. 

 And that’s as it should be, I think.  Birthdays should be a celebration of  LIFE – improving and ongoing, changing for the better with hope for a bright and exciting future.

Although I’ve been busy, my fingers have been itching to get back to the keyboard.  There will be more words coming in the days ahead…


In the meantime, here are some photos to keep you amused.

My Month

March blew in a little bit lion-ish yesterday, but the cold breezes were mitigated by cloudless blue sky and the sound of mourning doves calling to one another in the pine trees outside my bedroom window.  Those doves are the first harbingers of spring here in the midwest – when I hear then begin their cry, I know the seasons are a’changing and soon another winter will have passed.

March is “my month”…the month of my birth, but also the month that winter begins to retreat and let spring make it’s way onto the horizon.  So it’s a month of hope for me, a celebration of new beginnings. 

My mom and I were driving around on our usual Sunday afternoon adventures…sometimes we go to TJ Maxx and Bargain Books, or our favorite gourmet market.  On the way home, we might stop at Panera Bread for one of their awesome Pecan Braid pastries and a cafe mocha. Of course we talk about lots of things, including family stories (many of which I’ve heard numerous times, but which always bear repeating).   Yesterday,  I heard a new story, and it always surprises me a bit that after (almost) 53 years, there are new stories to hear.

“Did I ever tell you what you Aunt L. said to me when I told her I was pregnant with you?” my mother asked me. 

“No, I don’t think you did,” I replied, keeping my eye on the Jeep Cherokee that was following a bit too close on my rear bumper.

“Well, I hadn’t told anybody yet,” she said, “and one Sunday afternoon your dad went into work and dropped me off at her house for the afternoon.  So I told her I was pregnant, and she said  ‘Well, that’s just awful! I thought you had better sense than that.’ Now wasn’t that a terrible thing to say to me?”

“It definitely was!” I answered, although not terribly shocked.  My Aunt L. has some rather strange ideas about life.

“And then,” my mother continued, “we went over to tell Grandpa (my paternal grandfather) and he shook his head and said ‘So what? Babies are nothing…they come all the time.’ “

She laughed.  “So nobody was very excited about you!”

I laughed too, not the slightest bit offended because I’ve never been anything but cherished by all these people since my first breath on earth.   After all, my Aunt L. was the youngest of seven daughters and my grandfather the parent of five boys and a girl. Family life during the depression was not easy, and I imagine another mouth to feed in those days was not an unmitigated blessing.   Children couldn’t be as carefully planned in those days as they often are now – neither science nor societal expectations allowed for it. 

March sends me the urge to make plans, too, whether because it’s my birthday month and I feel the “march” of time, or because of the tinge of warmth in the air, the thawing of frozen ground and the noticeable increase in daylight.  I get an itch to change things up, to do something different, to get in my car and drive for days.  It was in March about eight years ago that I went looking for a “real” job, and ended up in the office where I work to this day.   It was in March three years ago that I started writing here, that impetus to try something new setting me off in a new direction of self-expression.

This March, I feel a desire to reset my professional compass.  I’m wondering if it might be time to leave the world of paper shuffling behind and head out on a new career path, one that lets me be more independent and creative.   Although I don’t have any definite plans,  the word is that if you’re open to new possibilities, they will appear before you.  

So this is my way of putting the universe on notice – we’ll see what the wind blows in.

And I’m wishing all of you a Happy March – may you be open to the signs of spring as they appear around you and within you 🙂