House Music

We’ve lived in a fair number of houses. Two of them were full of musical instruments. No, not the piano. Not the flute my husband tried to play but never got his embouchure quite right. Not the guitar, the cornet, or the drums, all of which made their way into our basements and bedrooms via the children.

No, these two houses had their own magical instruments.

The first one had a giant boiler in the basement. It needed constant care and feeding. Sort of like an opera diva. But when it worked, its sounds were wonderful.

It would start at 5:00 a.m. Drums and cymbals clanging up through the radiators, each with its own pitch and tone. Followed by the operatic hissing and screeching as the heat rose through the pipes.

Those were among the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard. We always stayed in bed until the concert was over. That sweet house was telling us that it was ready for us and when we arose we’d be warm, welcomed and loved.

Our current house has a different set of instruments. They’re the tin flashings on the three chimneys. Oh, the music they make in the rain.

It always starts with a few gentle pings on one chimney. The orchestra tuning up for the main event. The score can get pretty tough, depending on the wind, the rain, the thunder and lightening. The conductor has her hands full. It’s fun, loud, and free!

Some many years ago, a writer said that when the thunder and lightning come your way, it’s your job to curl up in a corner, listen carefully and enjoy nature at its most dynamic and musical. Try it next time. You’ll be glad you did. I’m betting on it.

 

 

Image thanks to clker.com

 

Subscriptions

We subscribe to exactly three magazines. We enjoy them but I am wearying of their relentless attempts to get us to renew. And re-renew. They even offer to send a FREE subscription to a friend or family member if I’ll renew….right this very minute.

The notices start off with a soft sell, of course. As in: “Dear Mrs: We know you don’t want to miss a single issue of______. We’ve enclosed a self-addressed stamped-envelope especially for you so you can take advantage of this unique opportunity. We eagerly look forward to hearing from you, our loyal reader.”

Lacking a response, they kick it up a notch. “Dear Mrs:  You are missed! Please re-join our group of informed, stylish and up-to-date readers. Just like yourself. Renew now!”

The next round is harsher still. “Dear Mrs:  Take advantage of this offer immediately! Time is running out.”

Then the gloves come off. Now there’s not so much as a salutation. Just a warning. “This is the very last offer you will receive. It’s now or never. Consider yourself in danger of dismissal.”

If I haven’t re-upped by then, I fear they’ll abscond with my youngest child.

But we never get that far. I cave. I write the check.

I need to remind myself that these notices are not party invitations. I don’t have to respond every time one comes in the mail.

The other one who lives here and carts those heavy magazines to the recycling center suggests that I read the fine print so I’ll understand that when it says “Jan. 29” it most likely means that I have 13 years left on that subscription.

But isn’t that always the problem? The fine print? It’s hard enough to wade through the magazines. Who has time for the “fine print?”

By the way, do any of you want a free subscription to _____?   No? Of course, you don’t.   If you did, you’d have already subscribed and you’d be getting these letters, too.

Food for Thought

The over-used electronic world is one of my pet peeves.

I’ve said this before. Now, I’m certainly not against access to information, to education, to entertainment, to the world. Not at all.

My concern is that its obsessive use draws us away from conversation, from face-to-face interaction, from time together.

My feelings were recently echoed, I thought, by a contributor to one of our several local magazines. They’re well-done, glossy, pretty and frequently have articles of interest in them. One article in particular caught my eye a few months ago. It was entitled, “Unplugged.” How could I not happily dig into that?

The focus of this particular article was how to unplug from television. Kids watch way too much. And adults probably do, too. And if they’re not watching TV, they’re plugged into their electronics.

So, I’m on board with the writer. Reading every word with relish. You go, girl….tell it like it is, how you stop the addiction, how you counteract it.

Toward the end of the article, there was a list of things to do other than watch television.   Maybe 20 ideas or so.

And the very, very first suggestion, at the tippy-top of the list was “Have Sex.”

Oh, dear. I thought this was a family article. What happened?

Now, I know better than to elaborate on any of that. To go down that road.  So I’m going to leave you to ponder that all by your smart selves.

I will add that, with some level of fear and trepidation, I read the rest of her suggestions.

And the very, very last one, at the very bottom of the list, was: “Spend time with loved ones.”

Oh, my. Didn’t she start with that? Or am I just showing my age here?

 

 

my thanks to churchpastor.com for the image

We grinched yesterday

I usually love that. Cleaning up, getting rid of all the red and green, the glitter, the shedding fir. I was always the first on the street to drag the tree to the curb, sometimes as early as Christmas afternoon. My reason, ostensibly, was that it had become a fire hazard. But, really, I just wanted it done. Out. Over. Back to normal.

Not this year. Don’t know why but taking stuff down and stowing it away was not fun. Not even a little bit.

Santy went peacefully back into his drawer, carefully tucked in with his old sheet, not to be seen for another 353 days. But who’s counting?

The ornaments are nicely organized but, more importantly, they are in a closet where I can easily see them if I want to take a quick peek.

I’ve left a few vestiges of the decorations tucked in spots around the house. Only I know where they are. And they’ll still be there this time next year.

I don’t understand this at all.

But as the song says, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”

Twig Tree, Redux

photo (1)

Shortly before Christmas, our sweet and unadorned Twig Tree was mysteriously and gloriously decorated with small packages of Cheezits, our favorite cocktail snacks. This apparently happened in the wee hours of the night….or at least sometime after 8 pm….  our usual time to retire.

Our grandsons who were visiting were amused by the mischief and creativity and were moved to wax poetic. One in Haiku; the other in rhyme.

I hope you’ll enjoy their take on Twig Tree’s transformation. Their renditions were among the best presents to be found under, or in this case about, the tree.

By the way, the “star” on the top is a picture of The Donald (click on the image to see it). Interestingly, a big puff of hot air blew across the porch, and he disappeared.

Happy New Year to all…..

 

From Eli:

I sit at the table

Looking out through the back door

Out towards the May

Past the door I see

A tree which has been well loved

Sitting on the porch

The tree was once bare

Nothing hung on its branches

Then neighbors helped it

It sits on the porch

Adorned with bags of Cheezits

Placed with care, by friends

From Noah:                           

The tree stood out back bare to the bone

It hadn’t seen an ornament since 2001.

Rich with much history

It sat waiting for a mystery.

When several nights before Christmas

It received one of these enigmas.

One night it was empty

The next day it was covered.

Not a creature was seen

But it now had a cheesy gleam

Ordained with bags of delightful treats

It glowed because of these sweets.

The tree found its decoration

Just in time for the celebration.

 

 

 

Twig Tree

It was a display item in a garden and gift shop, a fixture designed to show off shiny ornaments and other Christmas decorations.   For some reason, we ignored all that jazz, peered behind the glitter and saw the strange and twiggy thing that was meant to be our very own unique and special Christmas tree.

photo (1)

When the store manager removed all the beautiful ornaments, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Anything but. It wasn’t green. Had no needles. And it wasn’t even for sale.

But we were smitten and found a way to bring it home.

We bought pretty silk flowers to stuff into its many unsightly gaps, slathered it with our favorite ornaments, filled its odd limbs with odd things and declared it the best tree we’d ever had. This was well over 20 years ago. It has faithfully followed us wherever we’ve gone.

Two years ago when we moved to this old house with no storage, there wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation. Twig Tree would come with us even if we had to give up one of our few closets to keep it nearby.

Now, in the Christmas season, it has own Life On The May, overlooking the bluff. The old moth-eaten L.L. Bean blanket still warms its trunk in the chill. We don’t concern it with ornaments any more.

It’s perfect just as it is.

I Love A Parade

I’ve always wanted to be in one.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the ultimate in my dreams.

Last weekend was the Bluffton Christmas Parade. It’s a big deal in our town and my neighbor suggested that we participate. Yes, I said. Absolutely! I was hopeful that after a debut parade appearance, albeit a relatively small one, the Macy’s gig might be in my future. When one doesn’t have decades left to attain one’s dreams, one must take every opportunity to grab the brass ring.

Or, in this case, the handle on the little red wagon. Filled with deeply confused chickens.

Version 2

My neighbor, source of all ideas, concepts, costumes, and, in this case, chickens, was our leader. We strapped on our chicken hats, (doesn’t everyone have chicken hats in their attics?) donned our gloriously feathered masks, and our cheery Christmas socks and gloves.

The chickens, Phil, Belva, and Weezie, in glitzy neckwear, were safely cooped up in their wagon to protect them from fight or flight. Saletta was scheduled to be with us but balked at the last minute. Chickens can be so moody.

Off we went. All five of us. Surreptitiously. Down the back alley-ways.

See, we weren’t formally part of the parade. Hadn’t applied for that all important “permit.” So, we jumped the line, squeezing ourselves and the chickens in between the Boys and Girls Club Marching Band and the Jackson’s Towing Service float.

The roads had been blocked off, the streets were crowded, Christmas cheer was in the air and the weather was perfect.

It wasn’t long before it became evident that we, even dressed as festively as we were, were not the main attraction of our “act.” Those chickens got all the attention.

Most of the kids didn’t know what they were. Many had no idea that the eggs they eat for breakfast actually come from those feathered beings.

Adults wanted to know if the chickens “interacted” with humans. Many wondered why one would have chickens in the first place. It was a teaching moment for the parade goers.

It was not, I’m sad to say, the giant step towards the Macy’s Parade that I had hoped for.

What it was, however, was fun.

Name Calling

I’ve been called many things….some to my face and, I’m certain, some behind my back. No matter. One thing I’m sure of is that I’ve never been called a cook.

Oh sure, I prepare food. I also order-out and bring-in.   But real, honest-to-goodness, get-your-hands-dirty, mess-up-pots, measure-ingredients kind of cooking. No. Not my idea of fun.

But lo and behold, in the paper recently, I read a quote from Julia Child and it appears we think alike. Julia says that things will always go wrong in the kitchen. You can count on it. And her mantra is: “Never apologize. Never explain.” Well, if she thinks that way, and I certainly do, well, then maybe I am a cook after all.

There was the always reliable Tuna, Mushroom Soup, Spaghetti and Curry Delight. A mainstay on our table for many years. We’d add little bowls of raisins, hard-boiled eggs and bananas because it was a curry dish and we were attempting to disguise the ingredients.

One night we had company and Tuna Delight was on the menu. As I went to the kitchen to retrieve it, I saw the cat in the dish. Not sniffing, not nibbling, not testing. He was totally immersed. And most of the tuna was gone.

I’d like to think that Julia would have done what I did. (Of course, she never would have served Tuna Delight in the first place but that’s another issue.)

I plucked out the cat, rinsed off his paws and his whiskers, fluffed up the Tuna Delight and carried on. No apologies; no explanations.

To my knowledge, no animals or humans were harmed in that experiment.

Well, we’ve actually not seen those people since that evening so I can’t be totally sure about them. I am, however, quite sure the cat was happy.

 

Fanciful cat image thanks to colourbox.com

 

A persistent flower

She was indeed a persistent flower. She died several months ago, cared for by her family across the country.

A celebration of her life was held here recently. Many who were present shared her illness….Parkinson’s disease….but there were a few of us from her life before all of that.

It was a lovely ceremony. We were each asked to take a flower from a beautiful assortment and then replace it in the vase as we shared a few words about her, as we’d known her. Some recounted unique experiences, others spoke more generally but the message was the same. She was persistent, smart, funny, brave and determined.

As we left, we were asked to take a flower from the re-constructed bouquet, put it in a little water and think of our friend as the flower wilted and shed its blossoms.

I brought mine home, broke its long stem in two, put it in a bud vase, and thought that it would be gone by the next morning. That I had said good-bye.

It’s now five days later and that flower is still going strong. It’s a rose….a pinkish- white rose. The outer leaves have drifted downward but they’re still attached to the stem. There’s a core bud, strong and determined. I’ve added water to the vase three times.

Day six. It’s weakened but there’s still life. Just a little bit more water.

You don’t think for one minute I could have let that flower go until it was ready, do you? Something that persistent can’t be easily dismissed. It wasn’t particularly pretty at that point. The end of my friend’s life wasn’t either. It was tough going. Not for her, the easy life.

God speed, Suzanne.

 

A Turkey Tale

At a White Elephant party a few years ago, we were fortunate enough to win a dear, fairly large, stuffed-animal turkey. He looked like he’d been dressed by Vera Bradley. We quite admired him and felt we’d gotten a real prize. We put him on a high shelf, in the hall closet for the reasons cited below. When we returned from a brief out-of-town trip, we discovered he was gone. Shortly after that, his original “parents” called and said he had returned home with the accompanying letter.

We miss him but he is with his rightful family. Clearly, he had a few things to say about us that were not entirely flattering. They were, however, correct. I share his letter to his family with you, not without some level of shame.

THOMAS T. TURKEY

HILTON HEAD, SC.

November, 2013

Dear Mommy and Daddy:

 Just exactly what the hell you were you thinking when you auctioned me off as a “white elephant” at that silly party? I felt betrayed, and to be honest, a little dirty….as something with a mere price on my head. All our years together I’ve been your Thanksgiving centerpiece. Have you no respect? No affection? No memories of all our good times together?

Anyway, that family stuck me on a top shelf in a closet…ostensibly because they have cats and were afraid they might rip up my outsides and tear out my stuffing. That’s all well and good except they put me the closet where one of the cats tosses its favorite toy named “Baby”.

All day long, those people say:

”Oh, Felix, did you put Baby in the closet again”?

“Oh, let’s go look, Felix”.

 ”Oh, look , Felix, there she is, in the closet….just where you put her.”

And on and on. Nauseating. Truly.

Life in this house, as they say, is not exactly a bowl of cherries,… or cranberries…for which I long. I am, after all, born to celebrate Thanksgiving and from what I can see of these people’s kitchen, there’s not a whit of cooking going on. I know she keeps sweaters in one of the ovens.   What does that tell you?

As it turns out, they were gone for a couple of days in October. They had a cat sitter who left the closet open where “Baby” lives and I snuck out. 

I jumped down from the shelf, waddled into the kitchen, knowing that I would never be discovered there and found this sack in which I am coming home.

 Please don’t ever give me away again.

 I love you.

 Tommy.

 

We join Tommy in wishing you and yours…all creatures large and small…a very happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

To Flea or Not To Flea?

That was the question we pondered recently at our weekly play and say, dish and deal card game. One of our regulars had arrived in distress, singing that well-known ditty: “My Dog Has Fleas.”

Since we’re a dog-owning, dog-loving group, many helpful anti-infestation tips were offered. One especially appealed to our friend….the one I’ll call Dawn-Dipping. It’s simple. You fill a sink with lots of warm water, dribble in a few drops of Dawn detergent, stir gently ‘til blended, dip the dog in and out a few times, rinse him off and voila!   No more fleas.

Marvy, said our friend.

She stopped at the store, bought some Dawn, went home, put the dog in the sink, slathered a bunch of Dawn all over him, and rubbed it in real good.

That’s when the trouble started.

You….smart readers that you are….realize that, in her zeal to make her puppy happy, she missed a step. Or two. Yes, those all important “few drops of Dawn” and “lots of water” steps.

Of course the fleas disappeared. So did the dog. Bubbles. Bubbles everywhere. The more she rubbed and rinsed, the more the bubbles grew and grew.

So, this week when she came to the game, it was no surprise that she was singing another well-known ditty: “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.”

And so is the dog.

Who is now, understandably, terrified to go outside in the rain.

 

 

 

 

Thanks to www.buzzillions.com for the image of bubbles

Shall I Take an Umbrella?

 

Two years ago, our sons gave my husband a weather station kit for Christmas. I must tell you that there were some snickers and inappropriate twitters from the distaff side of the family. In retrospect, it was most unkind, and, ultimately wrong of us, to have treated the gift, and the givers, that way.

In fact, it was a wonderful present. He loves it.

It came in many pieces, much assembly required, directions printed in several foreign languages and just exactly what my husband needed….even though he didn’t know it at the time.

Things that come in many pieces, by their very nature, require trips to Lowe’s. And, in this house, a day without a trip to Lowe’s is, well, a day without sunshine or purpose.

I’ve been told that the weather station lives on our dock. I prefer the accu-window style of forecasting but, apparently, there are better, more up-to-date and precise ways to determine the weather.

As an aside, I’ll admit to a bit of jealousy here. That weather station sometimes gets over 8,000 hits a month. 8,000! I, Dear Reader, don’t get that many. Not even close. Can you feel my angst?

In defense of the weather station, it’s fun to learn that you’re going to get a pop-up shower at 2:15 in the afternoon. On the other hand, it’s also fun to be surprised by the dark rain clouds forming in the west, bringing a cooling storm our way. It’s a little like knowing….or not knowing… the sex of your unborn child. Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic but still. You get my drift.

One of my daughters-in-law, who lives near us and shall remain nameless, said she has her own weather station and has had for years. Do tell, we asked. It’s simple, she said.

She hangs a piece of rope from a tree in the back yard.

If it’s dry, it hasn’t rained.

If it’s wet, it has.

And if it’s gone, we’ve had a hurricane.

I just love the way she thinks.

 

P.S. For the curious and those who may want more than a rope, just click here

 

 

 

More Angels

Version 2

On the heels of my (supposed) success in creating little angels, made from Magnolia tree seed pods, I decided to participate in our neighborhood craft sale. One of us makes fabulous lamps from unique objects; one of us makes artistic and whimsical Christmas trees out of driftwood and I….well, I make little angels. Or, should I say, MADE little angels?

I gathered up lots of pods, conquered the glue gun thing, figured out a way to make the wire ribbon look pretty and off I went.   Probably made 45 of those little suckers.

I did not know that crafty people could quickly become competitive. Murmurs of “How many have you sold?” and “What did you get for that?” were heard.

My prices were reasonable, I thought. One angel for three dollars and two for five and I was giving my proceeds to the Hilton Head Humane Society which meant I wasn’t really competing with the others. Or making any money.

I’d sold four and was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

Then a nice looking lady showed up and was carefully looking at my angels so I went over to my little table and pointed out that the all the proceeds of my sales would go to help the homeless cats and dogs of the Island.

She thought for a moment and then she said…..and I quote directly as I am still seriously wounded from her words and may never pick up another glue gun:

“If I make a contribution to the Humane Society, do I have to take an angel?”

I’m glad I haven’t given up my day job.

Or I would be glad if I had one to give up.

A Small Transition

I don’t much like crowds. I don’t like being told where to sit, and I really hate to be strapped in.

Ergo, I don’t like airplanes. Especially airplanes with that three-seats-across thing.

The mister likes the window seat. I naturally get the middle and then there’s that awful suspense about who will sit on the aisle and hog the arm rest. None of this equates to happy.

I was middle-seating it recently on a trip home, nerves on edge waiting to see who’d be intimately sharing the next three hours with me.

I saw him get on the plane.  I knew the minute he walked through that door that he was The One! Clearly a New Yorker, dressed in black from head to toe, not a teenager, but not an old geezer like us.

The minute he walks through that door onto the plane everything erupts. He’s greeted by nearly everyone, kissed, hugged, congratulated. They’re all happy to see him. Has the whole plane done Red Bull? This early in the morning?   Clearly, there’s electricity in the air and we are not plugged in.

My seat mate is now chatting with everyone in sight. We offer to move so he can be with his friends. He demurs and says that most of people on the plane are his friends and one seat change won’t matter.

At this point, I’m longing for a crying baby. At least it might drink some warm milk and go to sleep. This could be a long trip. How will my grumpy self handle all of this energy, this obscene level of cheerfulness?

I try to figure out what’s going on. Finally, I hear the word “wedding.” When I can get a word in with him, I quietly say: ”Oh, off to a wedding?” Yes, he says, and I am the father of the bride.

I’ll cut to the chase. As I listen happily to all the details of the wedding, I soon realize that I’m sitting next to an extraordinary man. A generous, kind, open and, above all, happy, man.

No wonder all the people who were going to the wedding were so excited. They were going to spend the weekend with this man and his family.  I’d have been happy too. It was a destination wedding….in Savannah….and people had flown in from all over the world to be there. It was going to be a joyful occasion.

We sat on the tarmac for an hour with not so much as a wiggle towards the runway and finally learned that one of the engines had an oopsie. We had to find another plane and were seriously delayed. Nobody lost their cool. The wedding party’s positive energy prevailed and no one cared…..including us.

They had absorbed us into their joy, their excitement and we were, at long last, plugged in and part of the happy.

A three hour trip turned into five and the time flew by.

After a Bloody Mary or two, it occurred to me that there was one little detail they might not have thought of…..their being from New York and all.

My advice: “ On the way to your destination, stop at a Walgreens and buy every single can of bug spray you can get your hands on. Human beings aren’t the only creatures in the south who like this beautiful weather.”

He gets it. Makes a note in his phone and says: “How many cans???? Six dozen???? No, we said, a couple of dozen should do it. Think of us when you press the nozzle.

We sat on our porch during the wedding, knowing exactly what time they’d be walking down the aisle, having cocktails and eating dinner, and I saw some bugs start to flit about.

Barry, I thought, let me count the ways I enjoyed meeting you and your friends and I hope that perhaps, just perhaps, one of those little cans of bug spray came in handy.

Nothing, certainly not a single mosquito, or ten thousand, should be allowed to get in the way of what was destined to be a beautiful occasion.

 

 

 

Thanks to Ponderweasel.com for the airplane interior image above.

My Name is Basil.

I met my family at the Humane Society four years ago. It was love at first sight. Licenses were obtained; promises were made; vows were taken. Our lives together began at that moment.

Let me say at the outset that they are essentially good people. And I am a superb cat if I say so myself. A real catch.  Everyone agrees.

They are well intentioned. But there are issues. Aren’t there always issues?

I’ve been keeping a diary. I’ll share.

 

Dear Diary:

I prefer warm food. Most days, my first meal of the day comes directly from the fridge. The cold offends my tender nose.

I like to join them on the breakfast table while they have their cereal. They know I’ll sit only on the front page of the newspaper. Those colorful photo shots enhance my unique markings and lustrous fur.

Regretfully, one of them frequently chooses to reads that section. What am I to do?

Issues…so many issues.

 

Dear Diary:

They put things on the kitchen counters that don’t belong. It’s my job to tidy up. Some of those unwelcome items may break when they hit the floor; others may be only slightly damaged.

Still, they don’t learn.

Issues. Endless issues.

 

Dear Diary:

I thought we’d agreed on the number of snick-snacks that were to be served at cocktail time.   Five at the first pour; eight at the second (when they’ve loosened up a bit and are feeling generous.)

I’ve noticed a reduction in those numbers recently.

Yes, it’s possible I’m a little bigger than I was before the whole snick-snack thing began but I’m not THAT large.

Issues.  Clearly. Many issues.

 

Dear Diary:

I don’t know where the fleas come from…I really don’t. I don’t go outside and we have a pesticide service. I hate the flea treatment. They call it a flea shot….just like their flu shot, they say.  Intended to protect us.

I’m nauseous and lethargic for at least two days after the treatment.

Issues….so, so many issues.

 

Dear Diary:

In re-reading my entries, I believe that it comes down to this. They obviously love me. Oh, some of the things they do in the name of love are difficult to take…the flea treatment, the holding back on treats. Those things are hard, but in the end, it’s all about love.

So, issues, schmissues. We’re all crazy about each other and we plan to keep it that way.