Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Time spent.... or a penny spent....

During my annual Christmas season rant, I usually pontificate about people (mostly women) who go on and on about their holiday to-do lists, and Oh My God, however will they get it all done????   And I think to myself - if they spent more time enjoying and thinking about the real reason for the season, maybe they (and I) might be happier in the month of December.

But I've read something that made me realize that this type of person doesn't just gear up for Christmas.  It is a 12-month a year occupation for them.  I just read a Facebook rant written by someone who was outraged because she bought something that cost $3.99, and the cashier asked her if she wanted the penny or not.   Well, she rationalized, that was HER penny!!  An astute friend observed that it was a new practice, probably because there is a movement afoot to eliminate the penny.  The penny is a loser, because it takes two pennies to produce one penny.  The penny buys nothing.    Canada has stopped making the penny.    Now, realistically, if we really want to phase out the damn thing, let's just charge $4.00 instead of $3.99 and take the drama out of the situation altogether.

But WAIT!   If you save 50 pennies, you can roll them and get .......(drum roll please.....) 2 QUARTERS!!!    Holy Mackinoly, can you imagine?  

People often ask me how I get as much done as I do.  I can answer that very easily:  I do not:

(1) Obsess over every dust or lint particle that lands on anything within the walls of my house.

(2) Obsess over every weed that crops up overnight in my flower beds.

(3) Obsess over decorations for every holiday known to man, culminating in the blowout free-for-all formerly known as the birth of Christ.

(4) Pretend that I am a domestic goddess.   I gave up on that years ago because I was not fooling anyone.

(4) I absolutely, positively do NOT roll pennies!

If women really want to be on equal footing with men, they might want to consider re-prioritizing just a teeny bit...   Of course, the real modern wonder is the woman who somehow manages to do all of this stuff AND pull off a really successful career.  Few and far between, those women are.  But I still don't believe that they spend their spare time rolling pennies...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I Told Myself I Wasn't Going to Read This...

2013 was a year of incredible sadness and loss for my family.  It started out bad and ended worse.  So here I am in 2014, and there are two stories receiving a huge amount of attention on Facebook and elsewhere.  In both cases, I read a snippet and concluded that I was not emotionally equipped to handle them.  But sometimes there are so many people talking and commenting that curiosity gets the better of you... you know?   So I started following both stories....

The first story I tackled was about a 26 year old woman from the Syracuse area, married to one of our men in active military service, who developed a rare pregnancy-induced cancer while carrying twin daughters. The cancer was not discovered until she had given birth prematurely at 30 weeks.   It's not clear at this point what I found more remarkable.  Was it the devotion of her friends to create and lovingly update this Facebook page on an almost daily basis, as this woman fought for survival?  Or was it the fact that in 95% of patients with this type of cancer, the babies are the ones that the cancer kills - not the mothers?  This woman lost her life almost two weeks ago.  The babies are cancer free.

The second story was, of course, that of Ben Sauer.  I really had made up my mind to ignore this.  Too close to home, I thought.  Blue for Ben, Red for Tanner.  It was too much.   Then one day, my niece re-posted a story written by a Dad about what it's like to bury a child.  Ok, I thought, if she can read this stuff, I can read it too.  One blog entry and I was totally drawn in.  This mother had a way of just putting it out there in its raw form - everything from Ben's initial symptoms to the diagnosis and treatment, their devastation when the treatment didn't work, and finally, his passing two days ago - that was just riveting and beautiful.  I feel like I know this family, and why are the most gifted children always the ones that this happens to?   As they say on social media   - SMH!  (shake my head).  Ben's mother Mindy is so courageous, not just because of what she is going through, but because of her willingness to share the story with the world.  As spoken by someone with a blog that I am not willing to share with everyone around me.

So, I've read these stories, cried for these people, and I realize that the thing that connects them is faith in God.   Pure, unadulterated faith.  In both stories, there is no doubt that the deceased is now with our Creator. How else can you go on after something like this happens?   What do atheists do or think at times like this?   I just can't wrap my arms around the idea that there is really nothing for them to believe in or draw strength from in times like this in their lives.  I know that right now, Jenna Hinman has greeted Ben Sauer with open arms in heaven, and she is telling him - "Look and see how much our families and friends love us.   Some day, before we know it, they will be here with us to share our eternal happiness."

I'm not sorry I read these stories.   Although I'm sad, I am also grateful for the inspiration that Jenna's and Ben's loved ones have given me.  I am grateful for the loved ones who are still with me.  No matter what happens, I have to believe that God has a plan and everything happens for a reason (two cliches for the price of one.  Ha!  - But both so true).  Tomorrow night has been declared "Light Up the Night for Ben Sauer" on Facebook.  The idea is to leave your front porch light on all night in his honor.   I wondered briefly what this would look like from outer space.  As quickly as I asked myself the question, the answer came back to me. It will look like love.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Year in the Life...

It has been one year and a month since my Mom passed.   As I look forward to Mother's Day tomorrow, I find myself missing her more than I did on Mother's Day last year.  It shouldn't be that way..... or are there no rules about these emotions?  My Mom loved buffet brunches.  Which is exactly how we celebrated Mother's Day with her every year.  And it is how we will celebrate tomorrow.

What I am thankful for are some of the really wonderful mothers in my life.  My mother-in-law, who is as loving and supportive as anyone could wish for.   She is one of the rocks in our life.  When she is in Florida for four months, it's like there's a huge hole somewhere.  Bill is devoted to her, and I will admit that there have been times in our history when that devotion has been been taxing for a variety of reasons, but here and now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I know many fine ladies with young children, and they are all fantastic Moms.  One of them sings with me, and her overwhelming enthusiasm for her kids is almost infectious.   I have a very dear friend who continually amazes me.  She is one of the most loving and devoted mothers and grandmothers I have ever known.  In all fairness, I can't even say that I could ever hope to emulate her, because I believe that there are abilities that are just instinctive and inborn.  She is truly a wonder.

The nice thing about Facebook is that I know that there are others dealing with exactly the same feelings right now.  It helps to share.  There are an awful lot of great Moms up in heaven.  Here's to them.  We've known their love, their anger, their pride and their happiness.   Tomorrow is about all the great Moms - our own and everyone else's.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Puzzlement of Domestic Air Travel

In the past 16 months, I have flown to Florida, Rhode Island, and most recently Minneapolis, Minnesota.   There are some things going on in the domestic airline industry that give me pause.   I'm not saying that these things are good or bad.  I guess they make me enter into my own internal debate regarding their merit.

In no particular order:

Southwest Airlines.  They instituted the "revolutionary" practice of taking beverage orders as though there were 10 of us enjoying a leisurely restaurant get-together rather than roughly 120 of us hoping to get from point A to point B on time and unscathed.  The flight attendant takes orders on this inadequate-looking pad of paper, then he/she disappears for what seems like hours before serving the drink from an equally inadequate-looking tray.   Not particularly adaptable to turbulence.  Ideally, the drink would be consumed along with the snack, but, alas, no such luck when the purveyor of the snacks must wait until the entire unwieldy beverage service has been completed before even beginning their distribution.    I don't believe anyone has been able to tell me the advantages to this system, but since Southwest has been doing it this way for years, there must be something good about it.

Puddle Jumpers.  All I will say about these is that, in this age of high security and with terrorist acts being committed with alarming regularity, I find it strange that a plane holding upwards of 50 people would be allowed to deplane right out onto the tarmac.   Each time this occurred on my journey to and from Providence,  a scenario flashed in my mind of a deranged passenger breaking off and sneaking into a service vehicle unencumbered and free to then wreak havoc with some larger airplane.  If my simple brain can picture this, what in the world might a terrorist think up?  The gates in which these planes land and take off are bare bones in terms of equipment, and we now know that the pilots who fly these planes are woefully underpaid.   Enough said on this topic.

Connecting Flights......  will be the death of all of us some day.  It would seem that the latest trend in domestic air travel is for a flight to remain at the gate for an undetermined amount of time waiting for passengers from a late connecting flight to arrive and board.   I have no doubt that I would be extremely grateful if I were ever to be one of those late passengers.  What I know for sure is that when I am one of the other 90% of the passengers sitting in this plane for upwards of an hour, waiting and waiting and waiting some more, I just want to strangle someone.    And I think to myself that this practice has turned the airline schedule into a giant doctor's waiting room.  All it takes is for one plane to be late and the rest will fall like dominos.  So much for the on-time schedules that airlines love to brag about.

Luggage carousels.  This phenomenon is one that occurs only in specific airports.  Up until this week, I thought it only happened in Buffalo, but it seems that Minneapolis has subscribed to this practice as well.   Three planes land at said airport.  Said airport is not a huge airport, and traffic is rarely overwhelming.  It is off hours.  Passengers proceed to the luggage claim area to find four operational carousels but only one that is actually operating.     Luggage from all three arriving flights is loaded one after another onto one carousel.  It's anyone's guess as to which luggage from which plane was unloaded first.  Maybe the airport employees are having themselves a race with our luggage...   I'm not big on carry-on luggage.  I need too many liquids and I can't be bothered with that 3-1-1 rule, or whatever it is.  So, the handling of my checked luggage is somewhat important to me.   I try not to think about what went on with my suitcase before it made its appearance on that carousel.

All in all, I'm not about to give up on flying.  It's too efficient - when everything goes without a hitch. But it's a gamble, make no mistake.    And life is getting more interesting for the oddsmakers with each passing year.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Black, White and Colors

"The piano keys are black and white, but they sound like a million colors in your mind"    Exactly.

My father was one of those pianists who had a hundred songs (at least) memorized.  If we found ourselves in a home with a piano, more often than not, he would find himself playing it.  Some days, usually on lazy weekend afternoons, he would just sit and play one song after another.   And there I would be, laying on the living room couch with my eyes closed, just listening.   I'm pretty sure he was playing for his own amusement. I was the only one who would stop whatever I was doing and just listen.  The world just revolved around us - the pianist and his audience of one.   Our neighbors had an old player piano in their basement.  The basement was beautifully cool on a hot summer day, and they let me hang out and play around down there with the piano.  I was fascinated with it.  I could easily waste two hours making up my own tunes - and memorizing them.  I had no clue about what key I was in, what notes I was playing, or any other trivial facts.  I remember making one of those childish faces at people whenever they might insinuate that I should be taking lessons.  Dumb.

To this day, I don't know why I didn't want to take piano lessons.  For that matter, I was a complete disappointment when it came to instrumental music.  Not for lack of talent.  Not for lack of a love for music. Psychologically, I rebelled.  I now think that this was my way of sticking it to them for telling me "no" when I asked if I could take dance lessons.   More dumbness, and truly it was like cutting off my leg to save my arm, but in the mind of a grade-school child, I guess it made sense.  What's really stupid about it all is that I don't think I would have ever been more than an average dancer, even if I'd signed up at the age of three.

I never lost my love for the piano.  I also sang a lot. All the time.  Singing really was my first love.   But throughout school, I was always obsessed with the piano accompaniment.   In high school, our chorus had two accompanists (both students).  One was clearly more accomplished than the other, and I would be aggravated to the point of distraction if she weren't accompanying us.  It was at about this point in my life that I started regretting not learning to play.  But I thought that it was too late.  I didn't know of anyone my age or older taking beginner instrumental lessons - I might have even thought that such lessons didn't exist.   More dumbness.

But life goes on.  And when I got back into music as an adult, it was as a singer.  That was all I knew.  But I never forgot my Dad and his piano or how I could waste infinite amounts of time just playing around with a keyboard.    Bill started suggesting that I take lessons quite a few years ago.   What was stopping me...... time resources, for one thing.   Mostly fear, I think.   Fear of failure.  What if I didn't have the natural talent that I and others suspected me to have?   What if the teacher were a drill sergeant who would leave me emotionally scarred for the rest of my life?   I think that this is a big step for an adult. Children take lessons because their parents force them to (most of the time, if we're being honest).  The teacher is an adult who is just like all of the other teachers in their lives - authority figures, people who have all the answers to life (or are at least good at pretending like they do).   It's a whole different matter for one adult to seek out another adult for instrumental music instructions.  I mean, I feel like I'm really putting myself out there.  It's like making yourself vulnerable - especially at the beginning.  Not to sound melodramatic or anything.  My belief is that when both student and teacher are adults there really has to be a different level of trust.   I will practice as often and for as long as my schedule permits, and I will do my best to squeeze it into each day.  I am not gearing up for my NYSSMA solo, Carnegie Hall debut, jazz band jam session or any other similar activity.  I am simply playing for me.

I started lessons a little over two years ago.   It helps that the teacher is a friend, but on the other hand..... I would be less distraught if I were to disappoint a total stranger.   I suppose that's also where the trust comes in.   Some instructors demand trust without being willing to give it back to you.   Others inspire your trust with their total acceptance of you as a human being with your strengths, weaknesses, good days and bad.  I am extraordinarily blessed.   Thanks to my teacher, my perseverance, and my natural gift,  I now feel a connection flowing from me to the piano to my father that I've never known before.  In times of stress or confusion, I instinctively turn to the piano for comfort.  When I play, I feel his presence.   Music makes logical sense to me now, as it never did before.   While I will probably always consider myself to be a singer, piano has become another ingredient in the musical recipe of my life.   I don't know how I've gone this long without it and I don't ever want to be without it again.