Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Except You Become as Little Children

I now have some small taste of what it is like to be a celebrity. Yesterday afternoon I got mobbed at the pet store…

I’d better get used to having enthusiastic “munchkins” jumping up and down and hanging onto my legs, for when I walked into the Flagstaff Petland yesterday to drop off some CDs for my sister-in-law, I was immediately spotted by my niece and two nephews. I barely knew what hit me.

What a blast! I got a tour of the whole store from three small children who were each trying to pull their aunt towards their own particular favorite animal. Rabbits, mice, hermit crabs, puppies, goldfish, cockatiels – every critter got a visit. And I got a lesson in seeing life through the eyes of a child again. What a gift.


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I Have an Admirer

Blonde, blue-eyed, good-lookin’ and totally distracted from eating his dinner last night, he couldn’t keep his eyes, or his feet, off me.

My three-year-old nephew thinks Auntie is alright. With angel-hair pasta adorning his shirt and salad dressing all over his hands, he would sit and stare at me until I’d stop talking with the adults and remind him to eat. Then he’d grin, take a few bites, and start the game all over again.

If I didn’t respond in a timely enough fashion, I’d feel his little feet tapping on my leg, which meant that I had to tell him to turn around and get over his plate to eat. (Dad’s beagle loves it when the grandkids come to dinner.) More grins. Too cute.

Dinner and footsies. Now, if I could just find a male about 45 years older who would find me half as fascinating…

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Whew! Been busy packing and practicing , writing and web designing. There’s just a lot happening right now. My brother’s wedding is tomorrow. And, I picked up a little side work as an instrument tech with my surveyor friend for Sunday.

We’ve got a boundary and topo to do on Hart Prairie, up on the north side of the San Francisco Peaks. That is going to be cool! Literally and metaphorically – for one thing, it’s at about 9,000 feet in elevation. Hart Prairie is a gorgeous area any time of year, but in the autumn it is truly spectacular. I noticed just today on my trip into town to accompany the flamenco dance class that the leaves are starting to turn in Flagstaff. I’ll take my camera with me on Sunday and see if I can find some good shots of autumn aspens. I’ll post any good ones here.

Every so often, I have a nostalgic moment or find myself dragging my feet about moving. I keep telling myself that it’s likely temporary and I remind myself of all the very real benefits of what I plan to do this winter. It should be an interesting and productive time. It will also be a big adjustment living in an apartment in a big metro area again after more than a decade in “the boondocks,” where my trip to the mail box entailed a drive through pine forests and open prairies over four miles of washboard and red cinder Forest Service road. It’s all trade-offs, decisions made on an intuitive sense that Phoenix is where I need to be and music is what I need to be doing.

I’ve learned to ask myself the crucial question, “If not now, when?” While packing two nights ago, I ran across a box of mementos that contained greeting cards from the last decade or so–a birthday wish from my dad from before dementia took away his memory, a note from my ex-husband from a time before the disintegration of our marriage, and congratulations on my graduation from Fire Academy signed by all my old fire buddies, including the young cadet who died just a few moths ago. It was a poignant reminder that disease, dysfunction, and death are the great dividers. To not live my life to the fullest right now would be to deny a number of very difficult and painful lessons from the past few years.

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Some Good News, Some Great News

Good News, Blog Related: I’ve got a post over on the Carnival of Leadership Development at mabelandharry.blogspot.com and some new countries have come across my stats: El Salvador, Estonia, Saudi Arabia, and the Bahamas. Fun.

And drum roll, Maestro, please…

Great News, Family News: My brother is getting married in another week and my mother is beside herself with glee. She finally gets to be a grandma. I’m pretty happy, too. I’ll officially be aunt to three of the cutest little kids in the world, and sister-in-law to the wonderful, long-suffering, and patient (Oh wait…did I say long-suffering already?) bride. :-) Congrats, baby bro!

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Happy Bday, Baby Bro!

To my baby bro back in PA – HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And congrats on his new website, built by his lovely wife-to-be, Emily. His woodworking business, Stormbringer Enterprises, features his handmade, natural wood designs. Now, a gallery in the area has taken some of his handmade lamps, so things are starting to take off. Way to go, bro!

It’s a family enterprise all the way, and I wish them the greatest success with their endeavors. Check out the woodwork, and check out Em’s mom’s herbs, too!

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During breakfast this morning, some fragments of lyrics I wrote 25 years ago popped into my head. The words were from one of my brother’s favorites, yet I haven’t played that song in at least two decades. I can’t even remember all the words anymore. So, I expect I will be out in the shed in the near future digging into some of those boxes from long ago. This one isn’t going to let go anytime soon, that’s for sure.

In the bleak hours before the dawn,
With the words that burn and ache within your soul…
{I don’t remember the next two lines of the verse}

Sing the song that only you can sing,
Sing it out loud and strong,
The words that you were born to,
With the voice that has been silent for too long.

Ironically, I wrote those words for a friend who was struggling not to give up on his music and wondering if he still had any songs left inside. But, I might as well have been speaking to myself from 25 years ago. I got to wondering what else my younger self would have to say to me, and what today’s me would say to that twenty-three year old…

She’d probably walk through the door and once she got over the shock of seeing what time has done to her figure and her face, she’d look at me sitting at my table having leftover pizza for breakfast (Hey, it’s brunch. I got up late. Musician’s hours.) and say something like…

Younger Self: “Uh. Shouldn’t you be eating bran flakes or something healthy?”
Older Self: [Folding hands and smiling benignly] “You have not yet studied the venerable art of Tong Long Chu Gar, Grasshopper. Hush your mouth.”

A stand-off, but I know how easily she can be distracted. The library and the instruments will be too much for her. My thousand square feet of mobile home is a true embarrassment of riches to a struggling musician, the sum total of whose possessions are a lime-green 1966 Dodge Dart (a true tank of a car), a guitar, her clothes, her grandmother’s antique bottle collection, a single bookcase full of books, and a tackle box of art supplies, and who draws and paints at a borrowed drafting table.

YS: “Cool. Look at all the books…Oh wow, a harp! And a cut-away, acoustic-electric guitar!”
OS: “Look in the cases along the wall…”
YS: “You play all these?”
OS: “Not very well. Only the harp and the guitar are worth listening to. My fiddling is atrocious.”

She’s practically squealing in delight at the contents of the cases – a purple, five-string electric violin; a concertina; a mandolin; bagpipes; and best of all, a flamenco guitar. Uh oh, she’s pulled out the flamenco guitar. She can play rings around me, but she doesn’t know that yet. She’s a damned good classical player, but she has no idea how her music will slip away for years and I’m not about to tell her. At this stage of her life, she needs all the hope she can get. I play my trump card.

OS: “Here, let me show you something. I’ve been taking flamenco guitar lessons and I’ll teach you a really great rasgueado.”
YS: “C won’t show me any.”
OS: “I know. You may find this hard to believe, but C is not the only guitar teacher in the world. Just remember, someday you learn to play flamenco, and from a teacher who laughs when he plays.”

Instant attention and absolute focus. We pass the guitar back and forth…

OS: “This is ‘tapao.’ Damp the strings with your left hand and do rhythmic strumming…like this. That’s it. Good! Very good. Now, here’s the rasgueo: Thumb up, m and a fingers down, thumb stroke down. Emphasize the thumb up-stroke, that’s the accent. It’s a triplet, but when you get it up to speed it will be a continuous roll.”

She’s scary with how fast she picks up the strum. She keeps at it while I wonder what else to say to her. She’s right in the middle of the worst of it all. The rough times still ahead, she’ll find out about those soon enough. There isn’t anything I can say that will change that, and in looking back, every mistake she makes is an honest one, an honorable and heart-felt one. No regrets there. I don’t even have any warnings or cautions for her. The stubborness, the smart-ass humor, the impertinent questions, those help her survive and keep her spirit alive.

I have to make her take a break from the guitar. She adores Elmo and thinks I live in the coolest place on Earth. She is especially happy when she finds out that Mom and Dad live just down the road. She thinks our brother is crazy to live in Pennsylvania, but then he always did have to do things his own way. (She ought to know.)

She asks a lot of questions on our walk over to the lake. Things like, “Don’t you have any kids?” and “How come you’re single, don’t you at least have a boyfriend?” No, and no, not at the moment anyway. More for her to find out about as she goes along. Instead, I tell her tales of close calls, river trips and skydiving, fires fought and ambulance runs out on the res. She thinks that’s cool and is looking forward to it. I don’t tell her that learning how to manage those adrenaline surges was a big part of curing the post-traumatic stress disorder she doesn’t even know she has. I can truthfully tell her that, yes, I still played music even when I was an EMT. I almost always had a guitar back at quarters and would often practice between calls.

I had some normal nervousness performing last night; she gets stage-fright to the point of being violently sick. She performs anyway. I remember and have worked through what happened one fateful night long ago; she still has amnesia from it and can’t drive down that road without ending up at an intersection miles away, wondering how she got there. She knows there’s a couple hours of her life missing and it scares her, yet she persists in trying to remember. She will, and she’ll end up stronger for it. She’s smart, she’s resilient, and she won’t let anyone or anything keep her down for long.

We stand on the rocks along the shoreline and I point across the water to where the bald eagles nest and where I’ve seen wild turkeys, where the bear den is, and where the elk cows and calves like to bed down on summer mornings.

YS: “Grandma would have liked this, huh?”
OS: “She sure would have.”

I see her enthusiasm, optimism, and hope, her unbounded curiosity, and realize how they pull her through so much. Even her idealism lives on, tempered somewhat, but I haven’t really changed all that much. I put an arm around her shoulders. I tell her about my writing, and that a song she wrote means an awful lot to me.

OS: “You hang in there, kid. It all works out. And you sure made my day.”

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More feedback from the Universe: I was talking with my mom the other day about all the hits on the Fibroid From Hell post. She is still incensed that it took so long for the doctors to figure it out, and when I joked around about having been walking around giving birth for six months, she replied in all seriousness, “You’re tough.” She figured if she’d been in pain like that she’d have walked into the doctor’s office and started yelling at somebody by at least the second month. And my mom is definitely not a wimp.

“You’re like your dad, you don’t complain. No one would know how bad you’re really feeling.” She reminded me how his appendix nearly burst and his doctor marveled, “He didn’t seem to be in that much pain.” How he drove an eighteen wheeler back from California with a fractured knee. How… She made it clear that she didn’t mean just physical pain, either. I brushed the comparisons to my dad aside and ignored the “tough” comment. I side-stepped and replied that I had been quite detailed in reporting my symptoms. However, the Universe was not letting me off the hook that easily. On further reflection, I realized that, sure I told the doctors my symptoms, but in a very matter-of-fact tone, more like a science reporter than a patient.

Alright. I have been making an extra effort to pay attention to the feedback I get from others about my tendencies and habits, strengths and shortcomings. It’s part of the mapping process, right? I thought back to Tuesday, after my tumble on the slope and the hours of circling the instrument, stepping carefully around the rocks and constantly adjusting to the tilt. By the end of the day I could barely move my left leg for the flare up of the old nerve pain in my groin.

Did I ask R for help toting the gear back up the hill or for him to drive the truck back to Flag? No, I soldiered on. I went home and still got in a practice session. I looked back at my blog entries, especially the seventh paragraph of the Stunned post and realized just how much I can leave unsaid. And, how much I cover up pain with sass and smart remarks. Good Lord. I was working on the novel last night and, far from my heroine being a Mitty-esque fantasy, I realized that we are way, way, way too much alike. [Squirm.]

Whatever did C. mean when he said I needed to get tough? I truly don’t understand. If anything, I’ve been too much the warrior woman, unable to ask for help or accept comfort. I can be incredibly focussed, driven even. Self-contained. Self-directed. I’ve expected people to pick up on extremely subtle clues, and when they didn’t (small wonder!), I just moved ahead on my own. Take the “tough” out of “little tough girl,” and there’s still a little girl in there that feels all the pain, but doesn’t know how to show it. Except maybe in the songs she sings.

This sort of boggled my mind. How can one be both tough and sweet? Somewhere along the way I got the idea that the two were antithetical. Not so. Some of the tough has been about being easy to be around, not needing or expecting anything from anyone. No demands – no disappointments. I can do very well on my own, thank you. Yes, but there’s a whole lot more to life than being the Lone Ranger, Ariel.

Of course, Mom will love it when she finds out she got to be the messenger for the Universe on something I needed to hear. More than a touch of “malakh” there…

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