Category Archives: In My Opinion

The Music of Our Lives

I caught part of the Grammys last night and had several musical revelations.  First was that quite a bit of today’s music doesn’t appeal to me.  There were songs and artists that I enjoyed (although why Adele who has the voice of an angel has to have the mouth of a guttersnipe is beyond me) so I’m still able to appreciate artistry and harmony when I see it.  Yet the performance that really moved me the most in my limited viewing was a tribute to the BeeGees.

Yes, that’s my formative musical era.   My popular music tastes were honed in the late Sixties and early Seventies.  As I listened, every one of those songs had memories attached to it.  Then the artists segued into one song that literally took my breath away.

AFN Newscast

I don’t even remember now what the song was but suddenly I was in the barracks at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, getting ready to go out on a date and the world was full of promise, passion, and possibilities.  Last night, hearing that song actually took my breath away for a moment.  Was it really that many years ago that I was in my twenties?  How could that BeeGee mouthing along to his songs be balding and so old-looking?

That’s when I had my epiphany.  As enjoyable (or horrendous) as today’s music is, it’s not MY music.  My music was forged in my teens and honed and manipulated into the fabric of my life in my twenties.  This is the music that gets my blood pumping, that makes time travel a possibility if only for a few moments, and that is a real part of who I am.  This is the music that I’ll be grooving to when the first strains hit my ears as  I’m nodding off in a nursing home rec room.  Then just you wait.  I’ll throw back my head, open my eyes, laugh delightedly and for one brief, wonderful moment, twenty-year-old me will be looking back at the world.

Check in Haste, Repent at Leisure

Underwear

I don’t buy underwear (or, since I’m now a Southern lady, perhaps I should say “lingerie?) very often.  In fact, I find it about as exciting as buying dental floss.  When I find a style and brand I like, I tend to buy multiple pairs and then wear them to death.  As long as I have enough to go on a two-week trip without having to do laundry, I’m good.  This is unlike my son’s philosophy for underwear packing on a trip.  He once told me, when I asked him if he’d packed enough underwear, that he just turns them inside out when he runs low and then he gets double-duty.  I’m assuming he has changed his way of thinking as he has matured.

But back to lingerie….I had noticed recently that I probably needed to buy some more as some of my silky unmentionables were showing their age.  Goodness, I couldn’t even remember what size I wore.  No problem!  I quickly grabbed a pair and checked out the tag.  Fine, I now had the size and the brand and off I went.

When I got to the store and headed over to the Vanity Fair section, I couldn’t find that size for love nor money.  I THOUGHT I was looking for a size 15 but the largest I could find were size 12 and those were huge.  I was really skeptical that these weren’t going to fall down to my ankles but hey, I HAD checked so I bought three pair.

When I got back home, I decided to double-check one more time.  When I looked at the tag in one of my old pairs, I started to laugh.  I had been looking at the “Style” number, not the “Size” number.  Sheesh!  No wonder I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

The clerk in the Return Department and I had a good laugh the next day as I returned my three pairs and I explained my error.  That will “larn me”, as my mom used to say.  The next time I have to buy something that I don’t purchase regularly, I’ll check and check yet again before dashing off to the store.

It’s a Skunk! Now What?

Skunk

My hubby was working in the garage on framed pegboard for my craft room and as he was kneeling down by the frame, movement in front of him caught his attention.  He looked up and there was a skunk about three feet from him.  He quickly backed away and headed out of the garage.  Now what?

Well, first he left the garage door up for several hours, hoping it would wander back out on its own.  He also called a friend to borrow a humane trap.  Then he called me.  I’d been out running errands and he wanted to make sure that I didn’t park in the garage.

We didn’t notice that skunk any more inside the garage but he had baited the trap with some peanut butter and covered everything but the entrance of the cage with a black garbage bag.  So we closed up the garage, parked in the driveway and waited overnight to see if we had caught anything.  The next day dawned and the trap was empty.  Great!  He decided to let it sit in there one more day/night.

The next day we opened the garage and hmmm, I couldn’t see the bag OVER the cage.  I DID see something black and white INSIDE the cage and the door was now shut.  “I think we caught a skunk, Honey,” I called.

Sure enough, there was a skunk inside the cage and, in its fright, it had apparently pulled the bag into the cage and shredded it, as well.  We called our town’s Animal Control Department and they told us to call the police and someone would be by to pick it up.

Skunk2

Soon a young lady arrived and I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not she had pulled the short stick for this assignment.  She grabbed a blanket out of her vehicle and walked up to the cage from an angle and then dropped the blanket over the cage.

Skunk3

Next thing I knew, she was picking up the cage and carrying it to her Animal Control van, assuring us that she’d return the cage after she released the skunk.  Amazingly, it didn’t spray anything or anyone.

I was telling my brother about all of this and he suggested we put baggies full of moth balls in the garage.  “The smell will repel them,” he assured me.

“How in the world will they be able to smell the moth balls if they are enclosed in baggies,” I asked.

“Trust me, they’ll be able to smell it,” he told me.

Well, he was right.  The Commander picked up a big box of mothballs and put them in the garage but then, whenever we’d open the garage door, the disturbing scent wafted out REALLY strong.  It was horrible.  Come to find out, mothballs are carcinogenic.  Who wants to breathe that stuff in?  Not me.

So what else can you do to prevent skunks once you’ve gotten them out of a garage? Obviously plug any points of entrance they might have found (and don’t be in the habit of leaving your garage doors open unattended).  Keep any food (birdseed counts as food) in sealed containers.

Other suggestions I’ve seen around the Web include fox urine (apparently you can buy this stuff – no need to trap a fox and try to collect it in person), your own urine (I think I’ll pass), bright lights, loud noises sustained over time, ammonia, a .22 (I’m thinking the humane traps might be a better bet, especially when you have a police force who will come out to remove any skunks you catch), and coyote urine crystals.  I’m sure there are other suggestions that will work but I’m just glad we caught the critter in our garage and I sure hope I don’t see any more up close and personal.

Time Travel for Textile Lovers

Quilt5

On a recent day trip to the International Quilt Festival in Houston, I enjoyed a part of the quilt exhibits that was devoted to quilted clothing.  Honestly, I could sit and stare at clothing like this for hours.  I find it fascinating.

It reminded me of visits I’ve made to museums in New York, Washington, D.C., Switzerland, and Great Britain where I seem to gravitate to the historical textile exhibits and the furniture exhibits.  I honestly think it is the closest thing to time travel that I’ve ever experienced.  The idea that these clothes had living, breathing people from other centuries wearing them is just amazing to me.  I lose myself in the auras or vibrations that they seem to give off.

I can remember visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and wandering into a small side room that had, to my delight, drawers and drawers full of lace and embroidered ribbon and panels.  I was enthralled and spent the afternoon just pulling out each drawer and gazing in wonder at the revealed treasures.

Another time, I went with a group of sewers to New York City for a field trip to the Fashion Institute and Technology Museum where we stood in awe as they took us on a behind-the-scenes look at their collections.

One of my most memorable moments in “textile time-travel” happened when I got the chance to view several salesmen’s sample books from long ago.  Peddlers would take these books to the homes of those who could afford special clothing and open them up to show the mistress of the house samples of ribbons and fabric from which she chose items that she wanted incorporated into new dresses.  Because these samples have been shut up inside large, mostly acid-free books, the colors are as vivid as the day they were first woven.  Oh, my….these were pristine and so colorful.  I felt like I had truly stepped back in time to see things as they must have looked back in the day, before passing years, daily wear, and fading had occurred.  Gorgeous!  This picture up in Pinterest gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.  Here’s another picture of a fabric sample book.

If you’d like to go off on your own little textile time-travel adventure, here are a few sites to get you started:

Fashion Institute & Technology Museum

Fashion and Textile Museums

Victoria and Albert Fashion Collection

Kyoto Costume Institute Digital Collection

 

Jesus in a Prius

Fall Beauty

I was driving my beloved Prius home today and listening to good ole’ Southern Gospel music on the radio when a catchy song came on the air.  It had a section in there about how …”you’ve never seen anybody like Jesus….He’s one of a kind and He came in a Prius….(and on it went).

I was happily bouncing along with the beat and singing with the words now when I did a mental double take and thought, “Huh?  He came in a Prius?  How is that even possible?”

I listened closer to the second verse.  Nope, it sure sounded like those were the words they were singing.  Was I suddenly in some alternate universe where Jesus arrived in an environmentally-friendly version of the Virgin Birth?

Prius

I’m not judging, mind you, since Prius’s ARE pretty heavenly but still, surely I was hearing the lyrics incorrectly.  I DO tend to be a tad deaf.  I decided to look up the lyrics when I got home and see what the singers were REALLY singing.  Well, as I suspected, I heard it wrong.  The actual lyrics are “He’s a one of a kind and he came here to free us….”  Ah, well, that made a lot more spiritual sense, no offense, Toyota!

If you’d like to hear the actual song, here it is.  Enjoy!

 

Those Pesky Mall Kiosk Folks

Avatar2 6-15

Today I’m trying to begin my “sensible eating plan” to get back on the straight and narrow.  No fancy diet…just eating less and trying to move more.  With that goal in mind, I headed off to the air-conditioned mall because, let’s face it, in Texas in the summer, no one really wants to be hoofing it around the neighborhood in temps in the mid-90’s.

I parked and entered the mall and started walking around.  Jeepers, about every ten feet or so, there were one of those little kiosks in the middle of the walkway and someone would jump out in front of me, waving a sample of this or that.  I’d just smile and shake my head and keep walking.  I did NOT want a burner phone or a bejeweled iphone case or a discount coupon for a manicure or some nail cream, etc, etc.

Well, I walked and I walked and I walked and after a good hour on my feet, I was a hurtin’ cowgirl.  My doggies were draggin’.  Frankly, I was ready to call it quits and go home and knit.  First I had to wander down several long corridors just to find the right exit to get to my car.  FINALLY, I had the exit in my sight and was picking up steam when yet another kiosk attender jumped in front of me, waving some skin cream sample.

I politely smiled and shook my head “no.”  This guy was persistent.  “May I ask you a question,” he asked me.  I thought maybe he’d noticed my stylish new linen tunic in the hangup shopping bag and wanted to know what brand it was so I made the mistake of slowing down and making eye contact with him.

“Wouldn’t you like to know how to get rid of that redness on either side of your nose?” he asked.  “Don’t get me wrong.  You’re a beautiful woman, but I have a skin cream sample that will take care of that for you.”

“No!” I said and I whirled around and headed out the exit.

Redness, indeed!  That’s when my internal monologue started.  What I REALLY wanted to say to him was, “Look!  I’m old and fat and tired and my feet are killing me.  All I really want to do is get out of here and go sit down.  No, I don’t want your skin cream because all I need to get rid of this ‘redness’ is just soap and water.  The redness is called BLUSHER!”

Maybe next time I’ll go walk around the neighborhood.

How do YOU Read?

By the Pricking of My Thumbs

By the Pricking of My Thumbs

How do YOU read a book?  I ask you this question for two reasons.  First, a question is currently circulating around on Facebook asking what movie you’ve watched five times or more and still enjoy.  I can’t think of any movie that I’ve watched five times or more.  In fact, I think the number of movies that I’ve watched more than once could probably be counted on one hand.  I simply don’t enjoy watching a movie that I’ve already seen more than once.  It’s the same thing with a book.

Opening new worlds.

Opening new worlds.

Bear with me.  I’m getting to the reason for my question.  The second reason that I ask you this is not because I care whether or not you like to read a book via electronic means or on the printed page.  I personally enjoy reading a book via both means.

Reading with a friend

Reading with a friend

You see, I was complaining to my hubby the other day about how I really dreaded having to read books set in wartime or on certain subjects like the Holocaust.  I think some of the ladies in my book club like books set in World War II so I know that it’s inevitable that I’ll be reading books on that subject.  We already read Unbroken by Hillenbrand and that book about did me in.  There was SUCH chronicling of man’s inhumanity to man.
Reading4

 

The Commander looked at me and said something to the effect of , “Just read it.  What’s the problem?  It’s just words on a page.”

Reading2

I tried to explain to him that I simply can’t just read a book without becoming PART of that book.  I’ve always read books that way.  When I read a book, I enter into the story so much that I’m actually living the story in my mind.  When the characters are going through something, I’m going through it right along there with them.  Depending on the genre, this can be pleasant or it can be painful.

Oh, No!

Oh, No!

There are many times when I’m so “into” the story, that I continue the storyline in my sleep, beyond what the author has written.  Can you begin to see why I’m not very keen about reading about certain things?  My hubby thinks I’m nuts.  He is able to completely divorce himself from a story when he reads it and walk away from it, unscathed and untouched.  How is that even possible?

And that’s why I rarely will watch a movie more than once.  I’ve already LIVED the events shown in the film.  Why would I want to relive it again?  It’s like the movie “Groundhog Day”, being stuck in an endless loop with nothing ever changing.  Ugh!  Of course, you might be one of those folks who doesn’t care for change.  That’s not me.  My son often reminds me that I’m one of those folks that stirs up change around me if change isn’t happening fast enough to suit me.  I thrive on it.

So, how do you read a book?  Are you one of those readers who immerses yourself in the story or are you able to compartmentalize a part of yourself and observe the actions from a distance?  I’m curious.

Reinventing Our Senior Years

Early days in Florida

I was eating lunch with my son the other day and he asked me if I was happy that we’d made the move to Texas.  I told him something to the effect of “Well, I guess I’d better be.  It’s all downhill from here, isn’t it?”  I was feeling a tad maudlin, to be truthful.  When you’ve reached and surpassed Medicare age, looking ahead at what life has in store for you isn’t always the happiest thing to do.  The feeling of your life suddenly moving into “doubletime” where you are moving at a heck of a faster pace than you were when you were in your twenties seems inescapable.  Months whiz by, years that seemed to take forever to pass are suddenly gone in the blink of an eye, and you realize that your remaining years aren’t stretching out before you quite as long as you had originally thought.  What’s a girl (yeah, I still “think” I’m in my twenties) to do?

In my case, I found myself thinking back to my great-grandfather.  Here was a man who survived fighting in the Civil War, married a girl he met while recovering from war wounds in a hospital in Philadelphia, returned back to the Minnesota prairie, helped found a town out there, co-founded a bank, and lived a productive life in the Midwest as a farmer and banker.  When he was well into his retirement years, what does he do?  You’d think he’d start rocking on the front porch of his farmhouse, surveying the neighboring fields of his sons.  Nope!  He sold his farm and moved his wife to Florida.

Graf Home

It wasn’t like nowadays where there are lots of lovely retirement golfing communities or high-rise condos.   This was in the early days of Florida settlements when Northerners moved down there and lived in tent cities until they managed to build a better place to live.  Several of his children and their spouses soon followed him down to Florida and they set up home in tents and then one-room houses.  The top picture is of my great-grandfather and his wife with his daughter and a grandchild in the middle.  Great-grandpa Graf bought land in a settlement set aside for Civil War veterans and soon had a lovely home built on the property.  It is still standing to this day and several years ago, the current owners graciously let one of my cousins come in and tour the property.

The Widow Hollenbaugh

The Widow Hollenbaugh

Some time passed and my great-grandmother passed away.  Great-grandpa Graf didn’t sink into depression or throw in the towel.  What did he do?  He hired a housekeeper and then he ended up marrying her.  Yup, he married the Widow Hollenbaugh who is standing next to him in this picture.  She wasn’t much of a looker but she knew her way around a house, kept a tight ship, and took care of him in the manner in which he was accustomed.  I suspect she got the raw end of the deal.  He could be rather stern and demanding, although she DID get a rather fine house for the time.

New Hobbies

New Hobbies

He became involved in his new community.  St. Cloud, Florida was full of other Civil War veterans.  The town had been founded as a retirement community for such veterans.  He was in his element.  Great-Grandpa took up boating.  This was a man who spent most of his life on the Minnesota prairie.  He wasn’t a boater but turns out he loved the water and he would boat around the area, often with a small flag flying on the stern of his little craft.  Here he’s giving a ride to my grandfather (on the left) and a fellow veteran in the middle.

Visiting Family Members

Visiting Family Members

He wrote prodigiously and managed to get my grandfather to come down with his family for a visit.  This, in itself, is remarkable because my grandfather never went anywhere.  He’d occasionally let my grandmother drive him 30 minutes or more away from the farm for a picnic or reunion in the area but that was as far as I ever saw him travel.  In the entire time he was alive during my mom’s marriage, he NEVER came out to Michigan to visit her.  He refused to leave Minnesota.  How Great-grandpa Graf managed to get the man to come down there, I’ll never know but then again, this was his father and the man had a commanding presence.  Perhaps you can sense it in this photo?  My mother told me once, when looking at this picture, “I never really liked him much.  He never smiled around me and I always had to be quiet and behave.”

So what can I learn from reflecting on my great-grandfather’s later years?  I think it is never too late to reinvent yourself.  Take a risk and strike out to places you’ve wanted to visit.  If you’ve wanted to move, maybe now is the time to do it.  Nowadays, so many senior adults are moving to be nearer to family because we are a mobile society and our children are no longer all living nearby.    If we want to be near grown children and/or grandchildren, we are often the ones now who have to make the move.

Try new hobbies.  Being a perfectionist has tended to limit me in many ways because if I can’t be the best at something, I often don’t let myself try it.  That really isn’t a very good mindset.  When you are older, why not try it and give yourself permission to fail?  You can always fall back on your age as an excuse, eh?  Maybe we should just tap into the wisdom that is supposed to come with age and tell ourselves that it is “ok” to be just average at something.  What is important is whether or not it gives us and/or the people around us joy.

Get involved in your new community (or your old one).  If you were too busy before because you were working full-time, now is the time to look for ways to get involved, now that you have more time.  Maybe I’ll volunteer to work for the local historical society or volunteer at the local library.  Who knows?

Great-Grandpa, thanks for the inspiration.  I never knew you personally but your heritage is a strong one and your legacy continues to inspire.  If I could meet you today, though, I think there would be one bit of advice I would give to you and that would be, “You should have taken more time to laugh and get to know that granddaughter of yours.  She was a gem.”

Keeping a Sharp Weather Eye Out

As I was driving past a field of cows today, I noticed that most of them were lying down in the grass.

“Whoops,” I thought.  “It’s going to rain.”

Grandpa with Cow

Yes, that was drilled into me by my grandfather as I was growing up.  When the cows were lying down in the field, he would tell me that it would soon be raining.

He taught me other things as well, most related to the weather because, let’s face it, when you are farming in the Midwest, weather is something that plays a big factor in your life.

I’d shadow his every move as he went about his chores on the farm and often that would involve stopping to gaze up at the sky.  I learned to distinguish the clouds that meant wind was on the way and the clouds that showed where the rain was coming down in sheets out on the prairie.  I knew what clouds meant that it was wise to head for shelter and what clouds might be harboring hail.

Cow and Grandpa

On the rare occasions that Grandpa would catch a ride into town with my grandmother (he never learned to drive a car), I’d stand in the knot of farmers along the storefronts, who would discuss the crops while always keeping a weather eye out for possible trouble on the horizon.  It was thrilling for a little kid to be included in this group of weathered sages.

I learned that a storm was brewing if you could see the silver undersides of the tree leaves and Heaven forbid if the sky turned green.   If the sky turned a sickly green and the clouds started to skid across the horizon like the earth was spinning at hyperspeed, I knew it was time to drop everything and run to the root cellar.

It’s ironic today that I’m re-reading the book Isaac’s Storm  by Erik Larson.  It’s a story of the 1900 hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas and the man who was in charge of the Texas section of the U.S. Weather Bureau based out of Galveston at the time it hit.  He, too, kept a close eye on the sky as well as studied the weather instruments of the day.  Yet he was no match for the deadliest hurricane in recorded U.S. history.    It’s a fascinating book which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the weather, history, and this section of the country.

I like to think that we’ve learned a lot since Isaac’s time when it comes to predicting weather but I must confess, I still fall back on the old ways of my grandfather and his father before him when it comes to sensing changes in the weather.  How about those cows, you might ask?  Well, there does seem to be some validity in the observation.  We all know how the air can cool when it starts to rain in the vicinity.  Here is an article that talks about cows and their reaction to cooler temps.

 

Evoking Musical Memories

The "forever" duet

The “forever” duet

I sat down at the piano today to play some music.  As I settled myself to play, I found myself remembering all the times I used to play for my mother.  Whenever she’d be at our house, I’d put on a “mini-concert” for her and she loved to listen, sometimes singing along with familiar hymns.

I opened up a book of Organ/Piano duets that I’ve been playing from since my college days.  My grandmother and I had practiced one piece in particular called “Open the Gates of the Temple.”  It had been our plan to play the piece in church together.  Whenever I’d come home from college (and later, the Army), I’d grab the music and Grandma and I would sit down at the piano and the organ and practice.

So Beautiful!

So Beautiful!

It’s a beautiful piece with virtuoso portions for the pianist.  Of course, I’m no virtuoso but I do love to put my heart and soul into my efforts and this particular number never fails to give me goosebumps.  Unfortunately, the last time I played this with Grandma, I realized as we got further into the piece that she was playing my part.

I stopped and turned to her and said, “Grandma, why are you playing my part?  Play your own.”

“Honey,” she said, gently, “I can’t see the music anymore.  I’m just playing by ear.  I’m sorry.”

That brought me up short.  Bless her heart.  It wasn’t too long after that she passed away and we never did play this together again.

Over the years I had been tempted to ask our church organist back up north to just play it with me some weekend when no one was around, just so I could hear how it would sound.  You see, I’ve had to try to play both parts as best I could ever since Grandma passed away.

Oh, the memories!

Oh, the memories!

I finished the piece today and then, overwhelmed with the memories, I sat there and sobbed.  I miss my grandmother and I miss my mom.  I’m still ashamed that I scolded my grandmother instead of realizing that she was having trouble seeing. I’ll probably never play this piece in front of a congregation because I just get too nervous playing in front of people but perhaps some day, I’ll play it with my own grandchild.  Until then, I’ll continue to play both parts of this great old hymn and remember two wonderful women who introduced me to the piano and the magic of music.

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