Brahms and Death and what to say

Our local music community is tight knit. We may all excel in different genres of music, we may all play or sing different instruments, but the common thread of music runs strong in all of us. Indy performers, backstage technicians, classroom teachers, and more; we appreciate each other for the diverse talents and thrive on the knowledge that builds enjoyment.

When a musician dies – oh, whenever someone special and amazing passes on – I think of Brahms. In my teens I was a pretty good pianist. I loved to play Debussy, Chopin, Bach, and works by other composers. I couldn’t quite get the hang of playing Brahms. I could play the notes and handle the technique, but I couldn’t master the emotion and the expression that really gave the piece the richness that was Brahms. 

My teacher stopped me mid-phrase and began to talk. “When I was young, I didn’t know what to say at funerals. And when I was young, I couldn’t play Brahms well, either.” 

I took my hands off the keyboard and listened. 

“And then my husband died.” She was young, in her twenties, with a toddler daughter, when her husband died from a massive heart attack. “And I learned that there is nothing you can say at a funeral. All you can do is be there.” She paused. “And then, I could play Brahms.” 

This conversation happened about forty years ago. I was a teenager at the time. Despite the years, I remember it clearly. I can see the room, the other person in the conversation, and I can hear the words in her voice. I remember my initial reaction was to balk at Brahms and his connection with death. As I grew older and experienced more life, I learned to understand and enjoy the exceptional depth of Johannes Brahms’ compositions.

This conversation happened about forty years ago. I was a teenager at the time. Despite the years, I remember it clearly. I can see the room, the other person in the conversation, and I can hear the words in her voice. And that catch in my throat? Maybe it’s Brahms; maybe it’s knowing that music soothes as it allows us to grieve. Maybe it’s the bittersweet nature of musicians, the sensitivity that leads us to enrich lives of others as we enrich our own. 

Amigo’s Turn on Injured Reserve

Amigo asked me to look at a “mole” on his hip. This mole had always been there, as far as he knew, but it had started hurting. At first glance it looked like a big bug bite: raised center, red rash around it. I touched it, he flinched, and I realized there was more under the skin.

We made an appointment to see Family Doc, the guy who knows us best.  The pain had increased overnight, and the red rash had also gotten bigger. Doc gave Amigo the news: it was a cyst, the cyst was infected, and it had to be lanced and drained. He would numb the area first, and then get all the gunk out.

Oh, it wasn’t pleasant, but Amigo took it like a trooper. He managed to stay still despite the pain of the numbing agent, and then accepted a damp compress on his forehead to help him focus and relax. Doc removed what he needed, stitched the area closed, and then covered it with a piece of gauze and tape.

We’ve been back twice to have Family Doc monitor his progress. Amigo took antibiotics to kill the infection, too. At this time, I’m checking on how it’s healing and putting clean gauze on the wound each night. Eventually, he will need the cyst removed. Neither of us are looking forward to this.

Fortunately, a cyst on the hip doesn’t stop him from singing. Amigo has joined a small group in the barbershop chorus: the Mixmasters. More music is good music! or something like that.

Mars? In Retrograde?

I didn’t say it. I didn’t ask, “What else can go wrong?!” I just looked at the calendar and added one new commitment. One! And it messed up much of the summer. According to The Tarot Lady, here’s why the remainder of the summer might be difficult.

Mars will be retrograde today (Tuesday) starting at 5:04 PM EDT. We’ve been in the shadow period for a bit now so the energy has already been evident. Mars retrograde tends to bring out aggression while at the same time slowing down progress and ambition. Frustration is the norm and everyone wants to vent at SOMEONE or SOMETHING.

Because this Mars will be in Aquarius, the online world will be especially testy for the next few months. We can expect people to be at their worst, most aggressive behavior. Some people should just put their phones away and stay off social media until they can keep that crap in check. For the rest of us, do NOT feed the trolls. Do NOT let the news get you down. Watch your anger. Use it as fuel for art, good things but don’t bother trying to educate the angry (xxx) who wants to crash your party with their vitriol. Keep STRICT boundaries both online and off (especially online). This will help you to remain sane and productive, rather than mired in BS and drama.

Oh, dear. I guess I’d better stay off Twitter – or at least refuse to read anything tweeted by POTUS. After all, Mars is in retrograde, and the negative energy is everywhere.

Questions. I have questions.

When Aaron Rodgers and Danica Patrick go somewhere, who drives?

Why does The Weather Channel still think we live in Spindale, North Carolina?

If the Schwann’s food truck goes through the McDonald’s drive-through, is that a negative for Schwann’s or a positive for McDonald’s? Or does it have no meaning at all?

Where is Spindale, North Carolina?

When will our kitchen be finished? Never mind, don’t answer that. Let me live in my dream world of “soon, very soon” instead.

 

Health Care is Complicated: The Letters

I didn’t actually send these letters. Blogging the thoughts helps me settle down and control the stress-related blood pressure spikes that occur when, irony or ironies, I’m attempting to use the health insurance company web site. 

Dear Customer Service Department;

I found what I needed while waiting on hold. That means the information was too hard to find, the web site is not user-friendly, and the time on hold to reach a representative is much too long.

Sincerely,

Techno Geek

Dear Benefits Service;

Thank you for your prompt assistance and good advice. I’m pleased you walked me through the process to make sure it worked rather than just handing out pithy advice like “Use a different browser.” In fact, I should have thought of it myself. My geek brain was exhausted from searching for the EOBs while on hold waiting for customer service.

Much Relieved,

Daisy

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for your moral support as we navigate the mazes of these online services.

Yours forever,

Daisy

Summertime, and the living is…is..

Last Friday was the all-important, all-consuming, why did it take SO LONG to arrive Last Day of School!!

We spent the weekend shuttling Amigo to his reunion at the school for the blind and then to Lions Camp. Monday, I finally took a deep breath and felt summer settle around me.

I spent most of the morning taking care of various garden chores. There’s nothing better than starting summer with dirt under my fingernails! Buttercup the bunny came out, too. She nibbled on the lawn and rested in the shade. A little weeding, a little watering, transplanting two tomato plants that were too crowded to another big pot. Did I really use two, too, and to in the same sentence? Maybe my mind is still in school, after all.

And that brings me to the rest of the week, this first week that so many think of as a teacher’s summer “off.” All day Tuesday and Wednesday and then a half day Thursday will be spent in staff development learning more about the technology I use to teach online, but mostly, putting in the hours. Next week I’ll have two commitments: a book study (I’m leading it, so I’d better be ready) and a formal three day training in an intervention reading program.

Without driving the details, I’ll just say that June is a full, full month. I did my best to leave July more free. August isn’t bad, either. None of summer, at least this year, will be a full summer off.

So anyway, my point? I’m not sure I have one. I’m happy to have more time to dig in the dirt. In a few weeks, I might even try Sleeping In. Meanwhile, it’s summertime, the good old summertime.

 

Kate Spade, RIP

She was younger than I am. She was successful, famous, talented, admired. Did I miss any? And yet, she died today at her own hand.

Let’s say the word: suicide. More than an attempt: a completed suicide.

Kate Spade killed herself.

I’ve written about depression a lot. I’ve chronicled my own mental illness and the accompanying pain. I was fortunate; I never felt that dying was a solution. Feeling that way is a common symptom of depression, though. I know that, and I know that my illness could have turned that direction at any time.

I also knew that I put forth a cheery front. It wasn’t an act, it was simply my optimistic nature. As people talk about Kate Spade, her ability to make women smile often came up. She designed sporty, cute, clever accessories. Her handbags were classy and fun. Heck, I have a Kate Spade case on my cell phone – simple yet cheerful polka dots!

Readers, friends, family, it’s on all of us to make sure that people know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem or situation. It’s never the only way to end the pain. Reach out; help is available.

 

It’s a Garden. Period.

During WWI and WWII, people grew Victory Gardens. It was a good PR move, helping people feel like they could ease the burden of feeding the country by growing food of their own.

In 2008, the term Recession Garden came about. Planting a garden in the backyard, on the apartment balcony, or anywhere there was room for a container helped provide fresh food for the family, even if the country’s economy was shaky.

And now, just when I thought I’d heard every trendy excuse to grow your own tomatoes, there’s a new term: a Climate Victory Garden. By tilling – or not tilling – a small plot, gardeners have a chance to use their efforts as a force for change.

It isn’t my original idea; the concept comes from Green America by way of Mother Nature Network. I like their philosophy; they encourage composting, planting perennials (does my rhubarb count?), avoiding chemicals, and covering soil with mulch to maintain temperature and moisture.

As I said, it isn’t my idea. In fact, I hesitate to put another trendy label on my containers and the approximately 32 square feet with mostly vegetables growing there. Victory Garden, Recession Garden, or Gardening for Climate Change, it’s a garden. It’s not dirt, it’s soil. It’s tilled, compost added, watered, mulched (well, when I get time). But don’t call my little backyard effort anything trendy. It grows vegetables. It’s a garden. Period.

Progress – on a lot of fronts

Tomatoes are in their containers.

Computer desk and matching bookshelf and computer are in the guest room/office/La Petite’s former bedroom.

I have plants for the pallet garden.

Laundry is started.

All of these took more effort than we expected.

Tomatoes: I started the tomatoes from seed in March. Not all came up; I was a bit concerned. I did get six Roma plants, four beefsteak, and three large (and very tasty) cherry. Friday I was worried; the tallest tomato seedlings were showing some odd color on their leaves. I wondered if they were under watered – or over watered, for that matter. I came to the conclusion that they needed bigger containers, room to grow. They’re now transplanted to containers near the main raised bed garden – all but the one lone yellow pear tomato plant that’s in a basket between two rhubarb plants.

Computer desk and matching bookshelf took two weekends and time during the week to empty, clean, and move. Darn, those pieces were heavy! They’re all in place now, and everything works. Chuck had a challenge getting the AT&T tower up and running again, and it runs the landline, Internet, and television. He finished Saturday, just in time to pick up Chinese food and bring it home for supper.

Plants for the pallet garden: I have strawberries for the top sections, marigolds for the base, but the Home Depot garden center didn’t have the cabbage or kale I wanted for the large place in the middle. I watered them all, but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow night to get transplanted into the actual pallet.

Laundry. Darn it all, I almost forgot this weekly chore. After I cleaned up outside, collapsed on the couch with my laptop and a bowl of trail mix, I realized that unless I didn’t throw clothes in the washer and dryer, we might not have enough drawers in our drawers as the week goes on.

Laundry isn’t as glamorous or fun as planting the garden, but it has to be done. Now I’m relaxing on the couch next to Chuck, who plans to cook supper tonight. No take-out this time.

Stop Creating Emergencies.

Sometimes I call it “panicking over nothing.” But then I have to remember that whatever’s causing the panic might not be important to me, but it’s important enough to upset someone else.

In the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, there’s a chapter that advises the readers not to create their own emergencies. For example, it’s okay to buy cookies from a bakery instead of baking them from scratch. Pick up an already cooked rotisserie chicken instead of prepping and cooking a big meal. It’s not what I’d do every day on normal days, but sometimes it’s wise to step back and avoid creating unnecessary emergencies.

Right now, those emergencies are either kitchen or garden related. The kitchen remodel is coming sooner or later – most likely sooner. We have a lot of clearing and purging and emptying to do before demo day. We had to clear space in the guest room/office so that we could move the computer desk in there, and soon we’ll need to move the computer desk, the shelves on top of it, and the computer itself and all its cords into that room.

Garden! I started tomato seedlings and herb seedlings, and now I need to prep the containers. Yes, that’s right, the tomatoes are going in containers this year. I have the containers, I have the bags of soil, and I’m ready to start making those ready.

In addition to the containers, I have the pallet. It was glorious last year, and I have plans for the pallet garden again. I just haven’t had a moment to pull out the old, dead plants and fill it in with new soil and move it to its new home six feet away from where it is now – you get the picture. I want to do it all, and I want to do it all right now.

So, Daisy, why can’t you get outside and do it all right now? What’s stopping you? Regular readers, friends, and family all know that I’ve been sick lately. It feels like the last three weeks have lasted more like three months. I’ve been spending a lot of time resting, rehydrating, resting, icing or heating a sore back and sore knee, and resting. You get the picture. In between, I’ve visited doctors and pharmacies. Somehow, I managed to teach a few days and grade a lot, and I do mean a lot, of research projects.

It’s when I’m resting that it’s hardest. I might be sitting on the couch with an ice pack on my lower back and a glass of a refreshing beverage by my side, but I’ll be thinking that I really, really want to break up the soil in the main garden plot. It’s common to find me closing my eyes for a bit and then coming back to wakefulness with an Oh, No, I Need To — fill in the blank.

I’ve managed to sidestep cooking emergencies with the help of a crock pot and a well stocked pantry. I even filled the Stamp Out Hunger bag for the Post Office food drive. But as I patted myself on the back for that, I remembered that the spices will need a new, temporary home, along with the taco mix and my favorite sloppy joe mixes.

And then I say Stop. Little by little, all will be well. For now, I’ll rest and recover so I’ll have enough strength to cope when a true emergency comes along. I don’t need to create my own.