Thursday, December 30, 2010

Connections

This post is not funny.
I am too tired to be funny.

Our baby is married.
The marriage took place at the Newport Beach LDS temple yesterday, with a small group of family and friends. A civil ceremony and reception will be held on Saturday.
Happy and pretty.
Bethany and her new sister.
Charlie said, How come my face is so big?
Sam and her mom, Doreen.
More sisterly love.
We took everyone out to Mimi's Cafe for lunch afterwards. Mimi's is my favourite Southern California restaurant.
And, y'know, some of it had to be about me! 
Jon and Kenz. They kind of look related, don't they?
Charlie's friend, Mo, and Daniel.
Sam's sister, Janelle, and our baby.
The gratis dessert for the lovely couple tasted suspiciously liquorish, in retrospect. 
Baby Elsie pictures, just because I can.
Uncle Jon thinks he's the favourite uncle. Charlie says that's okay, because he's the favourite of the rest of the nieces and nephews. I think they are both right.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The story of Carrot

May I introduce you to Carrot?
Lovely readers, this is Carrot.
Carrot, lovely readers.
Many years ago, before Carrot even had a name, he was an Easter gift to a youngish wife from her slightly romantic husband, Jeff.
On good days, he sat atop their nicely made bed.
On bad days, which was mostly, he languished on the floor, where he had been thoughtlessly tossed as the youngish wife crawled into bed after long days of refereeing four children.

Then, after several years of increasing prosperity, Rabbit's owners added a very tasteful storage bench to their bedroom accoutrements. It was placed at the bottom of their four-poster bed and the wife thought to herself, Self, that silly rabbit would look very nice sitting on this tasteful bench. So she retrieved him from his ignominious heap of rabbitdom on the floor and sat him in the corner of the bench.

But then she noticed, oh horror, that Rabbit was a tad crusty. On closer inspection, wife indentified it as dried milk. How dried milk had been spilt on Rabbit could hardly be imagined, unless it happened during those surreptitious forays into the under-the-bed chocolate stash. Which were always accompanied by a glass of cold milk. So wife cleaned up the old rabbit till he was as good as new and placed him lovingly on the bench.

And there he sat.
Unless he was on the floor, having been dumped, yet again, as not-so-young wife hunted for treasures in the storage bench.

Then one day, not too long ago, definitely-not-young wife decided that, sentiment aside, it was time for Rabbit to meet the Goodwill bag. So she girded her loins (wherever she could find them) and hurriedly stuffed him into the bag.

But wait, all is not lost for Rabbit!

Dum-de-dummmm!

A few days later, he was discovered by four intrepid grandchildren and gloriously named Carrot.
They played with him, fought over him, and called him by his name, over and over again.
Carrot, Carrot, Carrot!
They took him home for sleepovers.
But they always brought him back to Nana's house.
Who does not dare to ever throw him out again.

Which is kind of a happy ending for Carrot, don't you think?



Friday, December 24, 2010

Gathering the chickens

Jenny and the boys are in Utah visiting family.
Jon is working.
Sam and Charlie are dreaming of a wedding.
Well, Sam is! 
Annie and Edwin and baby Elsie will be leaving for California in a matter of hours.
The family is coming together again.

We ate stuffed pasta shells for Christmas Eve dinner with Bethany's family tonight. 
We exchanged a motley assortment of gifts.
The little darlings each got two (not one, but two!) pairs of pyjamas from Nana and Papa for Christmas. They were suitably impressed and immediately changed into them. 
Quick, photo time, I cried. Looks like good blog fodder to me!
No Nana, not about us, said Daniel.
Daniel, Nana always writes about us, said Kenzie, in a world-weary voice.

It was a challenge.





Our clever son-in-law fixed up our desk-top computer for Christmas. 
No more snail pace every time Norton is running.

And a sleek new keyboard.
We gave Chris a mop for Christmas.
It was a very nice mop.

It's a bleak mid-winter night outside....
....but here inside, the fire is quite delightful!
We'll spend tomorrow getting ready for our road trip and eating leftovers.

Merry Christmas to you, my admirable readers, and all that you love.
Stay tuned for sunny tidings.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A little sadness in the air

I am sad to report that Bethany is no longer pregnant. We went to get an ultrasound last week and the doctor announced, rather off-handedly and with no preliminary, that there was no baby. I could have strangled him and, in retrospect, I probably should have. He wasn't sure what happened, but the baby did not develop. 

So, for the last week, Bethany has been dealing with the physical and emotional fallout from that abrupt pronouncement. She called me this morning and said Mom, I need you to come out here. It is unlike her to be demanding, so I made some calls to reschedule my appointments and off I went.

Hoo-ee, those four little darlings can wreck a house in no time at all when Mommy's feeling under the weather. I rampaged around, putting kids to work and doing laundry and feeding everybody. 

The weather outside was....delightful!

After setting the house (downstairs at least) to rights, making sure Bethany was going to survive the day, upsetting Natalie enough that she took a nap, and putting Chris to folding mounds of laundry, I headed for home. 
I brought Kenzie and Daniel with me.
They lost no time in ferreting around to see if there was anything worth mooching.
Kenzie walked out of the sewing room with a nice little journal that I've been saving for a random gift. She wanted to know where I got it. 
From the store, I answered.
Duh!
Later, I found this on my bedroom door.
What a con artist that girl has become!
So then, of course, Daniel wanted one too.
Why, I have no idea!
I told him I didn't think I had another one.


Which just goes to show how much I know!

The Friendly Beasts

Hit the play button.
Please.





Jesus, our brother, strong and good,
was humbly born in a stable rude.
And friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus, our brother, strong and good.




"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried his mother, uphill and down.
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town," 
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.




"I," said the cow, all white and red,
"I gave him my manger for his bed.
I gave him my hay to pillow his head."
"I," said the cow, all white and red.




"I," said the sheep, with curly horn,
"I gave him my wool for his blanket warm.
He wore my coat on Christmas morn',"
"I," said the sheep, with curly horn.




"I," said the dove from rafters high,
"I cooed him to sleep so he would not cry..
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from rafters high.



Thus all the beasts, by some good spell,
In the stable dark, were glad to tell
Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel,
Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel.



P.S. Here is a longer, but masterful, version by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Brian Stokes Mitchell.



You're welcome.


Monday, December 20, 2010

A little Reggae never hurt anyone

Well, no one answered the question I asked in my last post.
Too bad for you, it could have been worth something.
Look for the very small writing under the post title.

Now, hit the play button and listen to a little reggae while you read.
It won't hurt a bit. You can trust me.


Today, I had two preschool music groups in the morning  (both first-timers so I had no idea what to expect), an elderly group in the early afternoon and then six piano lessons in quick succession. It was one of those days where I wake up and see the day looming ahead of me and wonder what the heck I have done to myself.
Now, from the declining end of the day, I can look back and see how good it was.

The first preschool group was adorable, if slightly rag-tag. I love how music creates a container for the energy of little children. Even in a big open area, a dozen children will sit in a circle with me and it will feel like our very own intimate space. We sang Christmas carols and played jingle bells and generally had a whale of a time.

The next group was a freebie for the Cultural Center. I am quite dismayed by their lack of marketing, but there were three children with various grown-ups and we had an entertaining time. Hopefully, word will spread and I will have a group come January.

Some lighter moments from the memory care facility:

I was wearing jeans and a white camisole under a blue sweater. As I was wandering the room, playing my guitar, one old dear kept motioning to me, pointing to my behind. I thought maybe there was a thread or something that was bothering her, so I positioned my derrier in front of her reaching hands.
But no.
She didn't like my camisole hanging beneath my sweater.
So I tucked it up underneath and she was perfectly happy.
Oh.
Okay.
Maybe a girl of my vintage shouldn't be wearing things hanging out from beneath my sweaters anyway.

Then, after we finished a rousing rendition of Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, sweet R., who usually sleeps through most of the session, looked up at me with wide-awake eyes and said What trouble have you seen? 
Wow.
I didn't want to share my worst troubles with her, way too complicated, so I told her how my Dad died when I was twenty and how I miss him.
Oh, that's so sad, she said, her eyes misting over.
And what troubles have you seen? I asked.
She thought for a moment and told me her grandpa died.
I love it when music awakens the sensibilities of my elderly clients.

Piano lessons were likewise very sweet today. We're getting ready for a Christmas recital at the care home and the kids love their Christmas songs. One little boy, who has been, shall we say, a little reluctant, has taken a shine to Jingle Bells. He did a magnificent job of playing it today and so I high-fived him when we finished.
I knew I was good, he said, beaming.
So we played it again while his sisters accompanied us on the guiros.
Awesome.

All things shall perish from under the sky.
Music alone shall live, music alone shall live,
Music alone shall live, never to die.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blast this Christmas music!

It's joyful and triumphant. 
Who said that?

This song takes me right back to the 70's. It was written in 1956, the year I was born, oddly enough. It was first recorded by Harry Belafonte (and hit the top of the UK charts in 1957) and has been covered by such shining stars as Mahalia Jackson, Andy Williams, John Denver, The Lettermen, Nat King Cole, Rolf Harris (yes, that Rolf Harris!) and, sad to say, The Wiggles. 
In 1978, Boney M.'s version rocked it again to the top of the UK charts. 
I love Boney M.
I used to have a cassette tape that had survived from my youth. We used to rock out to it as we drove the interstates in our old non-air-conditioned Colt Vista. 
By the Rivers of Babylon.
Brown Girl in the Ring.
Sunny.
Ahhh, sweet memories.
I love road trips.

I dare you not to jig a little.
You might even sing along.

Best.
Christmas.
Song.
Ever.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bi-lingual happiness

Jenny's Mom is visiting, all the way from Peru, so we had them over to dinner on Sunday. I was flummoxed by what to have for dinner, because I wanted Elsa to enjoy it and Peruvian tastes are a little different than most Americans. 
Then, Sunday morning (one of those Sundays, with too many things to accomplish by the end of the day) I had a brainwave. 
We would have soup (corn chowder, because Peruvians love corn) and fresh wheat bread. 
It was Elsa's birthday on Saturday and I wanted to make a cake, but knew I didn't have time. Again, inspiration in the way of flan
Peruvians love flan.
And, it is easy. Go here for my fave flan recipe.
The meal was simple but successful. Elsa had two helpings of soup.

Te gusta sopa, Elsa? says I, in my best Spanish accent.
Si, si, she replied, with a big grin on her face.

Jon got in the dog-box with Jenny because he ate a helping of flan.
He tells her he doesn't like flan, she said.
Bad Jon.

Jenny's mom doesn't speak one word of English.
We got along really well.
Maybe that is why.
Did you know flan is flan in English and Spanish?

Afterwards, we made the most of our bi-lingualness and sang a few rousing verses of Feliz Navidad.
I'll tell you what, we know how to have a good time at our house!
My low E string was broken, hence the strange strumming pattern.
Which reminds me, gotta add that to my list for today.
I've been blogging too much lately, considering all the other tasks sitting on my list.
But it makes me strangely happy.
Try the flan recipe, it will make you happy too.
So will this video.

video

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter vagaries

We had a warm, dry spell yesterday and I went out to do some yard work.
There were bulbs, sprouting hopefully in a bucket, that Jeff had dug up while fixing the sprinkler system. I managed to get about a third of them planted before I got bored and pulled a few weeds.
As I was picking up the weeds I noticed the rhodies  spreading a little further into the common driveway than I would have liked, so I pruned them up a bit.
By the time I got those squished into the yard recycling bin and planted a few more bulbs, I barely had enough enthusiasm for the outdoors left in my bones to snap a few pictures of these lovely water droplets hanging on the variegated willow.

We had a tornado just a little south of us today. It wrecked a few buildings and caused a lot of damage. Tornadoes are rare but not unheard of in Oregon. A friend of mine, who lives just up the hill from us, lost her old farmhouse to a tornado a few years ago. It touched down and uprooted a Douglas fir, which fell on her house and knocked it off its foundation.

I think about monotony a lot. I used to crave it, when my life was a little more tumultuous. But now that it is mine, if I choose it, I find myself going in the other direction.

Even the best minds in the world disagree on the subject.

C.S. Lewis said, The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil. I'm not sure if it makes sense grammatically, but I can certainly relate to the sentiment.

I feel monotony and death to be almost the same. Charlotte Bronte. But dear Charlotte was of a rather depressive nature and should possibly be disregarded.

People, chained by monotony, afraid to think, clinging to certainties...they live like ants. Bela Lugosi. One of the greatest thinkers of all time, I am sure.

The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. Albert Einstein. We should pay heed to Albert, although I do not subscribe to the ideal.

And finally, one for the pirates among us. 
You know who you are. 
There is nothing so desperately monotonous as the sea, and I no longer wonder at the cruelty of pirates. James Russell Lowell.

Me, figuring out captions

I love carousels...
A zebra at the World's Largest Christmas Bazaar. 
...good friends who will go on adventures with you...
Brenda and Lori and Karen's hands at the biker bar. Karen would not have approved of this photo of herself so I cropped it.
...big bowls of clam chowder...
This one was so big I couldn't finish it. Disappointing it was, as my memory had made it more delicious than the reality. Maybe the chef was off duty. 
...and radiant sunsets.
This lit the sky as we were almost home. I kept trying to catch it through the car window, egged on by my buddies.  Quick! There, no there, no here, they said.
This will have to do.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Retro Christmas pics

Our first Christmas, with our darling newborn.
It was a meagre but deliriously happy time.

I think this was our first Christmas in Oregon, at Jeff's National Guard party.
Which would explain the present.

No idea.
Bad Mommy.

My kids will hate me, in varying degrees, for the next ones.
I'm also not sure of chronological order.
Bad Mommy.

This one's for Sam.
And now, courtesy of Bare Naked Ladies, some slightly quirky Christmas lyrics.

Let me tell you, Googling "Bare Naked Ladies" should be done    v-e-r-y carefully.

Turkey is done, reviews are mixed,
When's Mom gonna get that hearing aid fixed?
Hold still, wait for the click,
You're in this year's Christmas Pics



Tears rollin' down my nephew's face,
Santa's house can be a scary place,
Hold still... wait for it,
Hold still, wait for the click,
We're in this year's Christmas,
This year's Christmas,
This year's Christmas Pics.

Co-dependent me

I was feeling sad and gloomy.
Kind of grey and Eeyore-ish.
You see, I had poured my heart and soul into the last blog post and hardly anyone had left a comment. 
Not that Kathy and Sam are "hardly anyone", but I was expecting more feedback. Nay, even crying out for it.
Well, I thought, I guess I was too grumpy. 
Or something.
Which is pretty humourous when you consider that I used to go weeks between comments. I was just looking at my Australia trip posts and noticed that there was only a comment or two on the whole trip. 
I have become dependent on approval from others.
How sad is that, when I used to blog just for the love of putting my thoughts down into writing?
And by the way, did you notice, I have a fan in Moscow?
Oops, did I just say that out loud?
Did you see Neo-neocon's comment on my Leonard post? 
I am so awesome!
Crikey, somebody shut the woman up!


Anyway, as I logged on to start this post, I noticed four unmoderated comments.
Blogger has been playing jokes on me again.
Stupid Blogger.
All that it takes to make me happy is, apparently, four comments.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things that keep me awake at night

It seems that hatred is rising in the world.
Did you hear about the famous Glastonbury Thorn Tree, a famous Christian landmark in the UK that was cut down by vandals last night? Whether or not the legends are true, it was dearly loved by many people, which was motive enough for someone else to chop it down.
The tree may recover.
Let's hope so.

Sugar is now being sold in 4lb bags. It's not enough, apparently, that price-fixing and government subsidies of ethanol have driven up the price, but now we are to pay exorbitant prices for less of it?
Oh well, maybe it will be the saving of us in the end.
Though I hate to admit it, I could eat less of the stuff!

On the other hand, you know how ice cream cartons have been steadily shrinking? First they were 2 quarts. Then they were 1.75 quarts. Then, suddenly, 1.5 quarts. I guess 1.75 was not a round enough number. But the price stayed the same!
Well, Safeway has started making their cartons 2 quarts again.
I commented on it to the customer service person.
They didn't think people would notice, she said.
Oh yes, they will, I replied, I will make sure of it.
So, go buy Safeway brand ice cream.
It may not be the most delicious, but it is honest!

I wonder why, when I think certain people might actually come through for me (when they have always let me down in the past) I am saddened and surprised when they act predictably. There is a certain older gentleman of my acquaintance (I will not say friend) who was asked to play Santa at a Christmas breakfast that I am in charge of tomorrow morning. He is renowned for his grumpiness, but I agreed to the idea, thinking that he might enjoy it. Surely, I thought, he will not be grumpy with the children. But I forgot, he could still be grumpy with me. He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he was unhappy about a few things. Fine, says I, I will find someone else if you are not happy.
That was on Tuesday evening.
I muttered to Jeff, Why do I hate that man so much? 
So I did a panic on facebook and a kind friend and her husband came through for me.
He will make a much nicer Santa.
And I was grateful for nice, kind people.

Who do not make me hate them.
Who is that sweet little boy, sitting on Santa's lap?

I'm not decorating much for Christmas this year. 
But I do love this Schleich camel that sits atop my TV cabinet.
He could totally be in a nativity, don't you think?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't worry, it's just me, swooning

Warning: This post contains an overabundance of superlatives.
Disclaimer: None of these photos are mine. 

I have been to a lot of concerts in my fifty-five years. Some of the artists were mega-rock stars, some just beginning their careers, and some had spent their lives being adored by a select few. On the way home from Leonard Cohen's concert last night, I couldn't help comparing it to some of the others I have attended.

Billy Joel, for example, was egotistical and profane, and the drums were so loud they overpowered the rest of the sound. Tickets were expensive, even for nosebleed seats, and we were disappointed.
Neil Diamond puts on a rollicking show and appreciates his audience, but you're sharing the amphitheatre with 20,000 other fans. At least the other fans are well-behaved and like-minded.
Jason Mraz is a pretty big name with the younger crowd, is a talented musician, and I love his music, but the crowd is younger and insists on standing for most of the concert. He is also a flaming liberal and flaunts it, which just made me feel distasteful towards him.

Now, I know that many of my readers are not Leonard Cohen fans.
I can kind of see it.
I mean, he is a scrawny old guy with a big nose and a gravelly voice that would shame a grizzly bear.


But let me tell you, that man can give a concert.
From the moment he walked on  stage at about 8:10 last night, until he skipped off at 11:40, he held every one of us (about five thousand people, I would say) in the palm of his hand.
Besides, he kinda had that Dustin Hoffmann thing going on when he was younger, and he hasn't lost one little bit of his charm.


My seat was in the tenth row. The ticket (or maybe it was the seat) was apparently gold-plated. But it was worth every penny. I was surrounded by the La-de-dah crowd from Portland proper. You know, the eco/intellectual/cultural elite types. Which was okay, they were well-behaved, if a little full of their own importance. The audience was enraptured for the whole three hours and forty minutes, minus the fifteen minute break. I generally have a hard time sitting for that long, because my right ankle and leg start hurting, but by the second half I was oblivious to anything but the music.

Leonard is a master wordsmith. 
He is, above all else, a poet. 
He spoke the words to A Thousand Kisses Deep and brought the house down. 
He introduced his drummer as a Sculptor of Time and a Connoisseur of Silence. While he did not coin those phrases, who else would have thought to apply them to a drummer? With every eloquent introduction of a band member, you could sense the deep esteem which he felt for each of them. 

His rendition of Hallelujah, which has been covered by almost 200 artists and in various languages, was mighty. I was reminded, yet again, why a live performance almost always beats the recorded version of a song. The recorded version might be more polished and perfected, but the live performance establishes an emotional connection with each audience member. Did you know that Leonard wrote over 80 verses to the song? I think that last night he sang a couple that I hadn't heard before.


Leonard is at times rowdy and raucous, then poignant and pensive. Many of his songs are reminiscent and melancholy and one gets the feeling that they are somewhat autobiographical in nature. Chelsea Hotel #2, for example, is about his affair with Janis Joplin. Some of my favourite lines from the song are these:

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music."

Only he changed the fourth line to a rare exception and got a good laugh from the crowd.

Few of his lyrics are easy to fathom, but it doesn't stop me from  singing along.
I particularly like this song. It is lyrical and beautiful. The lyrics are open to several interpretations, but I like to think of it as describing a submission to God's will. A state that I find very difficult to achieve, if you must know.

If it be your will 
That I speak no more 
And my voice be still 
As it was before 
I will speak no more 
I shall abide until 
I am spoken for 
If it be your will 

If it be your will 
That a voice be true 
From this broken hill 
I will sing to you 
From this broken hill 
All your praises they shall ring 
If it be your will 
To let me sing 

If it be your will 
If there is a choice 
Let the rivers fill 
Let the hills rejoice 
Let your mercy spill 
On all these burning hearts in hell 
If it be your will 
To make us well 

And draw us near 
And bind us tight 
All your children here 
In their rags of light 
In our rags of light 
All dressed to kill 
And end this night 
If it be your will 



Towards the end of the show, Leonard said they have been on tour for three years. Three years ago, he said, I was just a kid....with a crazy dream. The sad fact is, his long-time manager and supposed friend stole five million dollars from his retirement funds. Cleaned him out. So here he is, putting on the show of a lifetime, at the grand age of seventy-six.
It was the best concert I have ever attended.
Who knows if our paths will ever cross again? he said.
Well, if they ever do, I'm taking Jeff.


Would you please forget that I said that if it wasn't for Jeff and my missing uterus, and...well... a bunch of other things, I would offer to have his baby?
Sorry.
Just had to say it.

P.S. Did I mention the back-up band members?
       Awe. Some. Every one of them.