Monday, January 28, 2013

A Little White Lie - Or Ivory or Ecru

Musical_notes : music notes setOdd term, isn't it?  "White lie" - by which we generally mean an untruth which does not have moral, financial, or safety implications; but which may in the telling allow certain notions to remain undisturbed.  Or it may allow certain assumptions to go unchallenged.

Maisie asks her friend, "How do you like my new dress?", blissfully unaware that the dress is the wrong size, the wrong length, the wrong material, and the wrong cut.

But is Maisie's friend likely to tell her any of that?  Oh, no.  She will probably come up with something that evades the whole question, and respond with something like, "That color does such nice things for your skin."
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Last week I visited a community singing ensemble as an invited guest.  Everyone was friendly and very welcoming.  They reminded me a little of The Village People, minus the fetching costumes.  However, they began on time (always a plus for me, as I loathe being late for anything but a dental appointment) and they had all the necessary equipment at the ready.

Song sheets were crisply distributed to two dozen or so present.  Warm up exercises commenced.  The jolly leader tapped his baton on the side of the music stand ...and we were off.

Yes, indeed we were - off key, off tempo, off you-name-it.

Between songs they gaily asked me whether a) I had ever sung before, b) did I know any of their songs, and c) was I thinking of joining their group as a regular?  Answers:  a) Yes, b) some, and c) I was thinking about it.

After we whipped through a few familiar ditties, there was a brief coffee break from our warbling.

One fellow (of the approximate age of 103) sauntered up to me with a familiar manner and declared, "You are the second prettiest woman here."

Unfazed (or simply temporarily stunned from the workout I had just undergone) I shot back with a pleasant smile, "Oh, really.  And who is the prettiest?"

"I don't know, but I always allow for the possibility that there must be someone around, or soon will be, who fits the bill."

(I cannot make this stuff up.)
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Now to the heart of the matter.  The leader of these happy cohorts announced, with no little ceremony, that we were about to have an audition.  I had been specifically assured that this was a no-audition-required community singing group, or I would have stayed home; and thus I felt a sudden shortness of breath.  But, not to worry, he did not mean me.

Three members of the group were going to favor us with a number. (I think we might have been better served with a letter, but I was new, so I didn't say this.)  If their song was of appropriate quality, they would include it in the group's repertoire at the performance later that afternoon.  But they were not sure they were ready, and it was up to us to decide whether they were up to standards.

JL (Jolly Leader) reminded us solemnly that this was an audition, and not to be taken lightly.  It was important to give honest feedback.  This was no "gimme" - this was an honest-to-goodness audition.  There was to be no automatic praise, no false reassurances.  Whether the trio was to be deemed ready for the upcoming public performance depended solely upon our feedback.  (Good heavens, the pressure was already mounting, and I was just visiting.)

The three (two male and one female) approached the piano with a good show of humility and a dab of jaunty confidence and announced their selection.  I had never heard of it, which was just as well.  Less to compare by.

I'm not quite sure what key they were singing in, but it hardly mattered as they switched it several times, whether the pianist did or not.  Some of the song was sung in Italian and some in English, but who knows which was which. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus and a repeat on the chorus for a flourishing finish!

I can honestly say I had never heard anything quite like it.

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After the last notes had died, but not necessarily a natural death,  JL solicited our unvarnished feedback.  This was met with a somewhat strained silence, for about ten seconds, and then the floodgates opened.

"I think their tone is .... remarkable."

"The mood of the song is really uplifting."

"Such a happy song."

"They probably should stand a little further away from the piano, as it was a little difficult to hear them on some notes." (I couldn't have put it better myself.)
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I sat there in mild disbelief.  The trio broke out into broad smiles.  General nodding and thumbs up could be seen for two rows in either direction.

And then I began to smile, too.  This group sings for the sheer fun of it.  They don't give a hoot about staccato, obbligato, or adagio.

But they sing with gusto!  And good camaraderie.  And a genuine joy in each other's company.
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And you should have seen the beaming faces on our audience later that afternoon, as we crowded into the social hall of a retirement center to sing to the residents for over an hour.  They laughed and clapped without reservation; and yes, I do realize that not a few were probably stone deaf.  Didn't matter.  

My ears are still ringing with the applause.  (Or something.  :)  And a good time was had by all.

Oh, and did I happen to mention the name of the song the trio sang? It was "Escusa me" - loosely translated "excuse me."

Well, why not?  Where's the harm?  

As I said, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.  Fortunately, I don't have to, as it happened just as described.  At least that is my recollection of how it all went down.

And yep, I think I may go back.  They told me they really need good singers, such as myself.  Since neither my morals, my finances, nor my safety is at risk - I think I will give the color of their feedback the benefit of the doubt. White, ecru, or ivory - I'm just going to allow the notion to go unchallenged.
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Hope you are telling the gentle truth wherever it is required, and giving everyone else the benefit of the doubt.  I'm certainly trying to. Until next time ... Marsha

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Grabber - Tool or Weapon ?

Pine_cone : Two big pine cones on the white background
The weather has been a little warmer this week, and we have had some breaks in the rain.  This means it is time to go out and begin to clean up all the pine tree debris that has landed during the last round of rain storms.  Pine cones, pine needles, and branches are an ever present chore waiting to be tackled.

The first few times the *LOC and I picked up pine cones, we both hobbled back into the house after a couple of hours of vigorous pine cone retrieval, as bent over as the hunchback of Notre Dame. The share price of ibuprofen products ticked up nicely that week, let me tell you.

But we cannot simply allow the things to pile up or soon we could not navigate the yard.  If you inadvertently step on one, well, you may end up sitting near it upon your own backside.  They roll when stepped upon creating a real hazard for the ankles.  At this point, my ankles have enough issues without aggravating them, thank you very much.

Fortunately, there is help at hand.  It is a wonderful little contraption called "the grabber".  It is yet further evidence that your local hardware store is the best establishment you can possibly frequent.  They have absolutely everything at the hardware store.  (With the exception of good deli sandwiches.) I could spend hours just wandering up and down the aisles, and sometimes do.

The grabber allows one to grasp a handle, which opens and closes, and is cleverly affixed to a three foot long pole, at the end of which is a set of pincer-like prongs operated by the handle at the top.  With this handy-dandy tool I can pick up pine cones without bending over very far. In fact, given that I am somewhat height challenged, I hardly have to bend at all.  

If I had to guess, I would imagine that this little gem is the best selling product around our little mountain hamlet, at least among the geriatric set.  Why this thing has undoubtedly saved its users untold tens of thousands of dollars in chiropractic treatments, liniments and ointment rubs, herniated discs and ruptured what nots.  The device is too marvelous for words; and I am sure the inventor must now be a jillionaire.  Deservedly so.

Once the little grabber was discovered, why picking up pine cones became quite pleasant.  Child's play, really.  That is until the *LOC got out of line and called me a party-pooper. What, you may logically ask, does picking up pine cones have to do with party pooper-ing?  Good question.  It is only in retrospect that I have sorted it out.
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The other afternoon, the LOC and I went out to companionably share yard duty.  While I was grabbing cone after cone in one area, he was industriously scooping up pine needles across the yard, as he listened to music on his headset.  They have these little paddles with teeth especially for this purpose (no, not on the headsets, silly, on the pine needle scoopers) because pine needles do not rake up well.  And clearly they cannot be grabbed. 

Every so often he would shout to me, across the yard, calling out some song or other that was currently playing, asking whether I remembered that one.  Generally I did, but occasionally I just nodded and kept grabbing, regardless of whether memory served.  Nightfall was coming and I still had forty thousand or so pine cones to pick up before dark.

Suddenly the *LOC shouts to me something about " Just wanna' have fun?" - grinning like a lunatic.  While I might under some circumstances agree, I really didn't think it was any of the neighbors' business and given his volume level I didn't see how they could possibly not hear him, so I ignored him.  A couple of minutes later he called out again along the same line.

I was by then getting ticked and paused to give him the stink eye.  I mean really, some people have no sense of time and place.  He looked puzzled, if not downright hurt.

I turned back to my grabbing, muttering to myself about foolish old men who cannot even do yard work without letting their thoughts wander in untoward directions, when he suddenly shouts out again, even louder this time, which I hardly thought possible.

I whirled around, prepared to step lively over to his vicinity and share an opinion or two with him, when he calls out, "Cindi Lauper -  girls just wanna have fun.  Remember that one?"

I was so irked that I was tempted to have an untoward thought or two myself, in terms of what purpose might the grabber serve other than just pinching pine cones.

But really, what was the point?  So I just shook my head in the negative and waved him off.  At that point, he shook his own head, and said, "Party pooper."  I think he thought he was muttering under his breath, but his headphones were turned up so loud, that he sounded more like he was trying to call down fire out of heaven.

Meanwhile, he was now raking with rhythm -feet moving, hips swaying, scoopers swishing - just having a fine old time over in his quadrant; whereas I was now thoroughly miffed at having been misjudged.

Smarting from the put down, I dragged my wheelbarrow over to his blind side, but overcame the temptation to acquaint him with my grabber in heretofore unknown ways. Instead I tossed the grabber onto the mere twenty thousand pine cones I had managed to grab, and stomped off to the kitchen. Let the remaining twenty thousand do their worst to whomever happened to be in the yard.
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Later, I could not help but sadly recall that wisdom laden line from Cool Hand Luke. "What we have here is a failure to communicate."
Ya think?  :)
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Hope your pine cones are staying on the limb, and that no one has risked life and limb trying to communicate with you today.  Until next time ... Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot - in this case, clearly a misnomer.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It Used To Be Funny ...

Perhaps my sense of humor has developed "old arthur" - goodness knows pretty much all the rest of me has arthritis.

Somehow, a number of things that I used to think were funny, are now just too true for belly laughs.  Besides, I try to avoid anything that might make my middle regions jiggle.  It is undignified, if not downright unsightly.

And stuff I previously thought was hilarious, lately strikes me as nearly pitiful - or as my dad used to say "Pity-itty-ful" !

Be that as it may - the following are a few observations on the challenges of the "maturity season" of life.  I cannot remember who first shared these with me.  That is another "maturity challenge".  I DO know that it is Tuesday.  That's about all I know today.

Laugh at your own risk ....
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  • That gleam in your eyes is from the sun hitting your bifocals.
  • Your little black book contains mostly names ending in M.D.
  • You get winded playing chess or bingo.
  • Your children begin to look middle aged.  Now how can that be?
  • You know all the answers, but nobody asks you the questions.
  • You actually look forward to a dull evening.

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Hope you are having a day filled with sunshine and smiles.  The *LOC and I are looking forward to a dull evening - maybe listening to some old Eddie Arnold tunes.  :)  Until next time ...Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Root Rot - Or A Better Story ?

"...the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."  ~Andrew Wyeth

There it was, sitting on a small wooden stem, underneath all the dead foliage from last season's flowering.  A new bud, and it is only January.

Slowly, methodically, I pulled away more and more brown and brittle dead "stuff" and as I did I saw more and more little reddish buds perched on their stems.  They had color and life, even amidst all that cold, stiff, brown, vegetation.  They were simply awaiting their time to bloom.

My newly transplanted planted peonies, which were three to four feet tall by summer's end, with massive greenery and blossoms as big as dinner plates, had by mid-winter shrunk to puny looking brown sticks of about half their former height.  If you were to glance at them, you might reasonably conclude they were dead.

However, they are not dead (lifeless, finished, hopeless) but rather they are currently dormant (latent, invisible, yet to be manifested).
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I'll be honest with you, I mostly hate winter.  I don't like being cold. I dislike trekking about doing errands in the frigid rain.  My arthritis flares up and my spirits spiral down.

Last fall we planted tons of new shrubs and plants that looked wonderful and truly added to the natural beauty of our little half-acre.  And then came winter.  Nearly everything has shriveled up, wilted down, and gone to sleep.  They are not dead - just dormant.

But oh, do they look dreary.

You can imagine, then, my excitement yesterday when I went out to do a little mid-winter tending to the peony plants.  According to my gardening book peonies should not be cut back until all foliage has died off and the first frost of the winter is past.  Then, and only then, do you cut them back, and put mulch around their base.  Otherwise, you can get root rot and fungus!  

When I discovered bud after bud, colorful and full of promise, I was just as pleased as a proud parent when her offspring has done well, even in dreary circumstances.

As I headed back into the house, after stowing my tools, and gloves; I suddenly wondered whether the Father might be just as pleased when I show some promise of renewed commitment and contribution.  

Perhaps you have been dormant lately, cold and lifeless; and perhaps there is yet coming a time of fruitfulness.

How I want to avoid spiritual "root rot" - stay away from the nasty fungus of the soul that tempts me to think there is little point to any effort of mine.  

I was so pleased with those little red buds yesterday that I smiled for a long time, and thought a lot about how beautiful they will be in the coming months.  All that promise just waiting to unfold.

Does God wait for me to develop a small bud of patience, a little shoot of faith?  Is He so glad when He sees them that He smiles upon my life when I allow His timing to begin to manifest itself in fruitfulness?

Those buds cannot know how happy they made me yesterday.  They cannot perceive how often I smiled as I considered the pleasure they will soon bring.

Even so, in my ignorance and earthly blindness, I cannot know how often God looks upon my life, even in times of winter barrenness, and smiles as he sees a small new bud of faith and fruitfulness begin to take shape.  
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Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)      

So friends, let's be on the lookout for root rot and fungus - as we look toward the fruitfulness of spring.  The whole story is not yet told. Until next time ...Marsha