Archive for the ‘Random Writings’ Category

Christmas-Cards-05I remember my mother writing out her Christmas cards each year; she was so organized. Her address list was neatly handwritten neatly on a legal pad, updated each year to ensure the addressees received her holiday greeting. Everyone on her list received a short personal note jotted out on Five and Dime Store bought stationery which was then smartly folded and inserted in a tasteful card that was hand addressed and posted with an official Christmas stamp. Also included in was the latest school picture of me in wallet size – my name, age, grade and the current year printed on the back.

My mother also received many such pictures in Christmas cards, some of children I recognized, but many I did not. For instance, my mother had a cousin Stanley who lived in Texas and as far as I could tell Stanley and his wife had about 15 kids. I think I met part of clan once when Stanley put the younger ones and the missus in a RV and drove to Pennsylvania, but if I recall correctly (and I’m not sure I do) by then even the younger ones were much older than me.

Because the Christmas card was such a solid, time-honored institution to my mother, never to be questioned or taken lightly, she continued to sign my name to her cards for a couple of years after I had moved out of the house. She would not have such an impertinent daughter who cared not one whit for a tradition that, in my mind, seemed to only favor the post office and card companies. When I married she began passing along addresses of people to whom I was obliged to send Christmas cards. I bristled at the rigorous act of sending so card to so many – aunts, great aunts, cousins, second cousins and lifelong friends of my mother. Also I was horribly lazy and disorganized and after a few moves, the final one being to San Francisco, I lost many of the addresses. I also patently refused to address the cards properly. It seemed too patriarchal to include only the husband’s first name, so instead I included everyone’s first name and left off the titles that denoted matrimony.

Once in San Francisco I realized that I did not have to send out traditional Christmas cards at all. The card itself could be a hint at my feelings towards this ridiculous tradition. Haight Street, my neighborhood, was full of kitschy shops that stocked cards that ranged from traditional to downright raunchy. I never had the gall to offend my relatives, who without reservation celebrated Christmas as a Christian holiday, but I did seek out and cards that were completely non-committal to the spirit in which the card was sent. Also I had acquired some Jewish and Pagan friends so it just made sense to be as inclusive as possible with my season’s greetings.

When my first son was born it became clear that a portion of my Christmas card list wanted photos. I confess to being pretty inconsistent with sending out photos through the years. Usually I would grossly misjudge the number of people who should be receiving photos and order what I thought was a reasonable amount. Plus I’m pretty cheap when it comes to buying anything other than musical equipment, and photos cost money.

My mother died on December 17, 2007, just four months after my second son was born. She never had a chance to reprimand me for not sending a photo of my new son to Mrs. So-and-So. She never had a chance to tell me Aunt So-and-So thought her second grandson was the most adorable baby ever. She spent her last holiday season in hospice in a nursing home and I don’t recall many Christmas cards my mother would have loved to see, reaching her. I don’t doubt that the idea of getting her cards out was on her mind when she had a lucid moment.

This year. This year I got it together. I thought about who would get school photos in their Christmas cards and I ordered generously. Then I sat down with my Christmas list spreadsheet, not updated since 2012 and began to edit. I have but one aunt left. One of my favorite aunt’s passed away just a month ago. I hadn’t been in touch with her in the past few years other than our yearly Christmas card exchange, although I had been meaning to call or write. . . My mother’s lifelong friend, who I had continued to correspond with out of a sense of a shared connection with my mother, has been moved to a nursing home. The great aunts all long gone, the addresses of the second cousins long lost, but I do wonder where they are and what has become of them. I have enough pictures of my kids,  but there are fewer people to receive the photos. And when it comes to addressing the cards I find myself reverting back to the traditional Mr. & Mrs. Still Married Couple, because when I get to the friends on my list who are separated or divorced or never took their husband’s name in the first place, I’m a little stymied. Did she go back to her maiden name? Did the children keep their father’s last name? Frankly I’m back to writing just the first names on the envelope. If I have the extended zip code I know it will get there.

When I moved my mother out of her house for good I came across a nightstand that appeared to have every greeting card she had ever received crammed in its drawers. Clearly those cards meant something to her. They were proof of a connection, somewhere someone cared. It was a brief, brightly colored nod and wave across distance and time that said “We share history. I know you and remember you even if we don’t see each other very often. I want you to know I still think of you and I want you to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. (Because who knows how many years any of us have left.)”

Finally I get it, mom.

I have never been good at counting my blessings; I’m far too negative for that. Those chipper, upbeat people on my Facebook feed (how did I even get these friends?) are constantly posting positive, life-affirming sayings, and it takes a great deal of will power on my part to not refute each and every one as oversimplifying, sugar coating or self-aggrandizing the true nature of our existence. Luckily I was taught not to say anything if I have nothing nice to say and so I remain, to most people, very quiet.

However, I sometimes feel the need to take a life inventory of sorts, just to remind myself how none of this makes any sense, but here I am and no matter what, it could always be worse.

Here then, in my most positively pessimistic perspective, is my list of miseries and how it could be worse:

1.) I make music that absolutely no one wants to hear. It’s my passion, my heart and soul, but apparently my heart and soul is lacking, boring, potentially dated and out of tune (do not tell me it’s because I’m a downer , not while The Cure and Morrissey are still touring).

It could be worse. I could be loaded with talent and still just as obscure and nowhere, like many of my truly gifted friends.

2.) My house is an absolute pig-sty having just spent the last week and a half enjoying a visit from a friend and her children and making little effort to contain the chaos.

It could be worse. I could have high expectations of my housekeeping abilities and spend the next week stressed out while working towards a presentable home. Instead I will take this opportunity to continue to enjoy the summer and host many more social engagements, knowing I won’t have to clean up much afterwards to maintain status quo. All the while I will not worry that my friends are secretly judging my messy home and deciding my best efforts are not good enough; I made no effort. Perfect!

There is the added bonus of boosting my friends’ confidence in their own housekeeping standards. Once they leave my place they will have a bright new perspective on how nice their homes truly are. I am a good friend!

3.) I’m turning 46 in a few weeks. How did that even happen? I was 27 just a minute ago and now here I am starting the 4 year countdown to 50. What have I even done with my life? Do I really need to go any further with the physical aging process? Because I know how it ends and I don’t like it. And . . .and . . .reading glasses!

 It could be worse. I could still be living with the youthful optimism that it will all work out without any effort on my part. That was a big lesson I learned only in the past 6 or 7 years: if there is such a thing as fate, you have to get her number and harass her regularly to get her to work for you. Or you can just do the work yourself (easier).

 Also gone is the underlying anxiety of where my life might take me because I finally know:  it’s taken me right here, a messy home with a couple of kids who, I hope, are enjoying summer break with their mom, a woman who isn’t stressing over things that don’t matter that much.

 Without being too optimistic, I’d like to say I am okay with where I am right now (although being at Comic Con this weekend would be good too).  There’s still some road ahead with potential twists and turns, but I think I’m better at navigating it than I was in my youth. Or not.

I certainly don’t see myself embracing the bright side of things anytime soon, so I’ll stick with counting my miseries and my life long philosophy. . .Could have been worse

Happy New Year!I have a New Year’s resolution.    It is somewhat daunting yet completely within my capability and will give me a sense of accomplishment and enrichment should I complete it.

 I plan to learn a poem by heart.

I decided this on the day before New Year’s eve.  My in-laws had left a day earlier and even though I had lots of work to do before the neighborhood New Year’s Eve partyI gave myself the morning off. I let the kids play video games in the family room, something they hadn’t done for over a week while their grandparents occupied the space, while I stayed in my pj’s and took to my bedroom like a moody teenager.  Lounging in bed I listened to old cassettes of a music project of mine from the late 80’s and read poems out of college text books.  It was self-indulgent time travel, yet it felt rejuvenating and necessary.  It reminded me how good poetry is for my soul.   That’s when I decided I was done with all the usual self-improvement resolutions.

Obviously the desire to eat better, exercise more, work smarter not harder, all while learning to love yourself for who you truly are, doesn’t work out for most people. If it did, the internet wouldn’t explode each January 1st with articles on how to make this year the year to keep your New Year’s Resolutions,  not to mention the crazy lists about the  7 Surprising Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Diet And Self-Esteem By Reading All These Lists About How You’re Doing Everything Wrong.   I don’t have the energy to think about all the things I’m doing wrong while trying to become a better person who accepts herself.  I think I’ll just live with my foibles, learn a poem and move on.

So then the question becomes – which poem do I learn? I do have a few poems in my repertoire – easy, short poems by W.B. Yeats and Emily Dickinson as well as the very first poem I ever committed to memory, a catchy verse from Kate Greenaway’s Under the Window .   I haven’t worked too hard at memorizing big chunks of words since my college days,  so there’s an inclination to keep it short and sweet, but I want it to be meaningful which brings me to a recent confluence of events:

Back in November, my friend, Nate, who was expecting his third son (born on December 31st 2013 – Congrats Nate and Rose!), told me he and his wife had decided to name the child Eliot after T.S. Eliot.  After learning this I felt the pull to re-read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and so headed down to the family room to find my old copy of The Wasteland and other Poems.  I was barely there for 5 minutes before my kids appeared and asked what I was doing.  My husband, worried he was missing out on a party, showed up soon after.  I explained I was reading poetry and then without offering anyone a chance to escape, opened the book and began, “Let us go then, you and I . . .”

Both boys listened to the entire poem without interruption which I found amazing because while my inner voice reads the poem with the proper measured tone and inflections, the reading my real voice gave left a lot to be desired.    When I finished, my youngest son asked to hear more poetry. My eldest son seemed lost in thought.wasteland

“If you memorize passages of this poem and quote the right parts at the right time,“ I told my oldest son, “There are  people who will be very impressed and think good things about you.”

“Really,” he asked.

“Yep, especially that part about the mermaids, “my husband chimed in, “Everyone loves that part about the mermaids.” (It’s true.   Many, many years ago, back in the 1990’s, a friend sent me a handmade postcard with mermaids on the front.  On the back she had written “Actually, I do think they are singing to you.”  It was so touching that I have kept it, even though she has long since gone out of my life.)

My husband then put a record on the turntable and we sat there listening to music and, at least in my case, thinking about poetry.  It was one of those rare picture-perfect moments when your kids behave exactly like you imagined your kids would behave, before you actually had kids.  It gave me yet another reason to appreciate “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

My younger self always appreciated the poem because by my humble interpretation, it touches on human frailty and failure, mortality and missed connections, all wrapped in the yearning for something greater that will never transpire.  It’s beautiful and timeless and I know small sections of it already, but it would be wonderful to have it all committed to memory.

And so, this year instead of resolving to take up the 7 habits of highly effective people, or eat only the 5 foods that will melt my belly fat, or try 10 tricks that will cut my workout time in half,  I resolve to learn “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”   It doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t try other things, it simply means I am to making poetry a priority for my mind, body and soul.  After all, learning poetry by heart is the number one purest and safest way to ingest art and make it part of you.  I think it’s a pretty good resolution.

As an aside – I’ve often wondered how many people have a poem or poems committed to memory and what those poems might be.  Let me know if you do.

 

He did not mean for it to happen
He was just doing what kids do

Capture and release
Wanting to hold something beautiful

But when he  uncupped his hands
A delicate pair of wings  stuck to his palm
A newly flightless creature crawled across his knuckles

Put it down, I said, before you hurt it more

There, he said, as he flicked it off his hand,
Now it has a new life

We watched it crawl along the ground

Yes, I replied
Remembering
It can happen that fast

word pressButterfly

In the wake of last night’s VMA’s I have come up with a subversive idea for the music industry.  Why not start promoting new pop artists who are over 35.  What more mature artists may lack in youthful good looks and reckless abandon witnessed on last night’s show, they make up for with years of experience, a serious understanding of paying your dues, and self-respect for one’s craft and performance.

Now I recognize that self-respect doesn’t really sell the way youthful good looks and wild abandon do. This could actually be a good thing.  It could be a reset button, a way to lower the bar for the young performers who feel the need to top all that’s come before, because topping all that’s come before is eventually going  to take us in to Annie Sprinkle territory and I can guarantee you that Annie Sprinkle has done it  better.

We’ve come a long way from Elvis swiveling his hips on Ed Sullivan, or even Madonna humping a wedding veil.  It takes a lot more to shock the audience.  There was a time when playing around with a bit of religious imagery was enough to get some cries of outrage.   However, religion seems to be on the decline in America so it’s hard to get the public riled up over something they may or may not care about.  Besides, Madonna drained that well dry in the 80’s and 90’s and Sinead O’Connor all but paved it over.

It seems we’ve lost the knack for subversive imagery and we’re left with nothing but the actual acts we once artfully paid homage to via creative symbolism.  Or maybe we have nothing left to rebel against.  However, there are things that still seem subversive in our society – conspicuously aging, being fat, being poor, being gentle, being average and being okay with it.  Unfortunately, none of these things make a marketable train wreck.

I maintain that here are a lot of musicians in this world, who in my opinion deserve way more attention than some of last night’s VMA acts received.  Here’s a list of some  artists/bands that would have shocked and amazed the audience both by delivering a compelling performance and also by breaking the ever devolving pop-star mold.  Check them out if you get a chance.

Diggsville

Adam Beach

The Hodges

The Clarences

Bite

Zoid

A poorly drawn cautionary tale of a middle aged woman and a fictional character in a relationship that just wasn’t meant to be.

Title-page

Hubby-Panel

Bedroom-1

Bedroom2

Bedroom-3

Split-Screen-Not-there

Kid-Panel

Card-Game

kitchen-table-panel

End-Panel

Happy New Year!

Goodbye, 2012.  You were a pretty good year.

New Year’s Eve has always been a bittersweet event for me.  I remain a creature of possibility.  A hard, fast ending that involves a countdown followed by a melancholy tune rhetorically questioning if we should forgot the days that have gone by can reduce me to tears as I realize all that could have been won’t be.  At least not this year. But then, poof, here comes 365 days of possibility, wonder, amazement.  You can’t turn down a fresh start.

I’ve become a little more fluid in my thinking these days and have recognized possibilities and fresh starts are available almost any time or place, but it still feels good to demarcate the beginning and ending of 52 weeks.  It makes it easier to look back and say things like, “That was the year my youngest son started school;” “That was the year my oldest son grew taller than me;” “That was the year I began to feel like if I put in the time and effort, I could really become a musician;” “That was that year I felt my life had come together and I became aware and  amazed by how much love and beauty surrounds me.”

Actually I  would never say that last sentence because it’s a little too New Age-y for me.  One cannot thrive on the power of failure and fully embrace the positive affirmation.  It seems to me positive affirmations are tossed around far too willy-nilly these days anyway, and often I sense there is a less than positive subtext beneath.  In my cynical little blackened heart I  feel that the much touted “I’m so blessed” Facebook status update translates into: “My life is soooo much better than yours.”  Seriously, if Mother Theresa were alive and on Facebook she wouldn’t be posting how freakin’ blessed she is every 15 minutes! Get over yourselves, people!  You’re trying too hard, and I’m pretty sure all those pictures of your family have been heavily retouched!

Ahem. I feel better now. But this does bring me to the obligatory list of New Year’s Resolution.  My first resolution is to limit my Facebook time to one session per day (and preferably a session that lasts no more than 5 hours) or at the very least,to figure out how to turn off the status updates of the Facebook friends who annoy me.  Beyond that, I should  work on my self confidence, but then I realize I would never be able to do that, I just don’t have that kind of strength of character.  So instead I have resolved to take up a bunch of  low level bad habits (like not flossing twice a day or biting my nails) and then next year I can resolve to stop doing those things, which should be fairly easy to accomplish,  thereby boosting my sense of self worth.  Sometimes you have to look at the big picture with these resolutions. My final resolution is to have the mess from my New Year’s Eve party cleaned up by next New Year’s Eve.

Seriously though, I’m looking forward to a lot in 2013, including working on my second CD, playing music with the Debora Iyall Group (DIG for short), perhaps continuing a side project with my friend Pauli Gray, and of course spending lots of time with my kids who are growing up way faster than I thought possible.

For those of you who have stopped in and read my entries in 2012, thanks so much for reading.  Hope you have a great 2013!

I'm sooo blessed!

Some of my favorite gifts from this Holiday Season.