Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mom's Love Of Music...

My mother was always singing…that is when she wasn’t yelling, criticizing, studying the racing forms, cooking, ironing, shopping…. I don’t know when her love of music started, but I imagine it was when she was very young. There weren’t any televisions and radio was all you had back then. She knew the words to all the old songs like the back of her hand. Because of her, I knew all the old songs too, even ones I would have been way too young to be familiar with.

I think I “woke up” to the popular music of my generation when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. They directed my attention to modern day rock and roll. But before they came on to the scene, I would be singing my mother’s songs. Some of my mother’s favorite singers were Doris Day, Patsy Cline, Peggy Lee, The Andrew Sisters, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Edie Gorme, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Jerry Vale and Andy Williams. She never cared for Tony Bennett, I don’t know why, but she loved Connie Francis. She loved the Big Band Era and most especially the Glen Miller Band. I can remember her singing songs like “How Much Is that Doggie In The Window,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Crazy,” “Que Sera Sera,” “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree,” "Fever," and on and on. While other kids were singing Elvis tunes, I was singing “Once I Had A Secret Love.” And I hate to admit it, but even today, I know the words to those old songs much better than any songs from my own generation. The words to the modern songs faded over the years in my memory, but those of my mother’s youth remain with me till today.

The popularity of the Beatles, and other singers of the 60’s, allowed me to add to my love of music. My favorite singers would vary from time to time. My mother would like some of them and hate others. For example, she loved ABBA and would sing along with all their songs. But, she hated Sonny and Cher, particularly Cher. My brother and I were old enough to buy records and albums and we both loved Cher. My mother expressed her distaste with a few choice curse words every time we played her music. She told us to play them when she wasn’t around. The only problem with that request was that my mother was always around. So every now and then we would play an album and sing along, much to her disgust. When I eventually moved on from Cher to Olivia Newton John, my mother’s distress was greatly relieved. And when the movie, Grease, came out, my mother was a huge fan of the movie and songs. My mom also liked Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees. She loved Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and disco music. Come to think of it, maybe the only singer she could not tolerate was Cher.

My mother lived to be 88 years old. She spent the last few months in a nursing home. She had taken a fall at home and was sent there for therapy after her hospital stay. She was supposed to come home after she was able to get around, but she had a couple of strokes a few weeks apart. All those years of smoking and going on and off her blood pressure medication probably played a part in that. She also suffered from Alzheimer’s in the last couple of years of her life. It got worse after my father died. She didn’t like being in the nursing home, but she needed round the clock care. On Sunday afternoons the nursing home would bring in entertainment for the residents and their families. The entertainers would be singers, more often than not, and they sang the old time songs the residents were familiar with. I knew all the songs, but more importantly, so did my mom. The music made her happy and amazingly, she sang along to every song without missing a beat. All the words were still in her mind and she sang them as she always had. I sang along with her as I had done countless times before. The Sunday visits were the best because of the music. My brother and I brought a cd player for her room with her favorite songs downloaded from the computer so she could hear them every day. I think she found a lot of comfort and joy in those songs and I could see her whole demeanor changed whenever she heard her music.

There were so many songs that she loved and so many of my memories are attached to them. Every time I hear one being played, I can’t help but sing along. Sometimes one will just hit me out of the blue and I’ll start singing it. I used to sing to my girls when they were babies. To my younger daughter I would always sing “Everybody Loves Somebody…but I don’t love nobody but you.” To my older daughter I would sing “You Are My Sunshine.” They probably don’t remember that at all. Like my mom, I am always singing a song. One thing that bugs my girls is when one of them says a phrase that triggers a song lyric and our conversation stops cold while I sing a few bars. I always felt life should be like a musical and in between conversations we should take a couple of minutes to break out in a song. Imagine all the stress it would relieve if we did? And, at Christmas time, when the malls and stores are playing carols, I am always singing out loud, as my girls speed up their pace to distance themselves from me out of embarrassment. I guess they don’t realize or appreciate that this little annoying trait of mine is part of their grandmother’s legacy that lives on in me.

So as I approach what would have been my mother’s 97th birthday, I hope she knows that for the last nine years I have proudly and loudly carried on her legacy. I will always have a song in my heart for Mom. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Mother's Tears...

I’ve been thinking about my mom lately. October 1st would have been her 97th birthday, so I suppose that’s why she is on my mind more so these days. My mother wasn’t one to shed many tears, at least I didn’t see them if she did. I did expect to see a couple running down her cheeks the day I got married, but there were none. Her first born child, her daughter, was leaving the nest for good, and not one tear was forthcoming. My mother was happy that day. You would have thought there would be tears of joy, but no. No tears of sadness, no tears of joy. Instead there was a beaming, 67 year old woman, with a Loretta Lynn hairdo, happy to celebrate this day with me. And her parting words to my new husband were, “You got her now, she is all yours,” followed by a good hearty laugh. It was almost like she was glad to be rid of me, but I knew deep down that wasn’t the case and maybe she was masking her true feelings with a false bravado.

I remember seeing my mother cry twice. The first time I was four years old and she had learned, over the phone, that her mother had died at the hospital. My grandmother had been sick for a long time and I think it was expected, but still painful. She went into the bathroom and sat on the edge of the tub, bent over, her face in her hands. I hated to see her cry, and I tried to console her, but there is only so much comfort a four year old can provide. The image of her crying on that February, Sunday morning still remains with me to this day.

The second time I saw my mother cry was many years later, during my first year of college. I used to take three buses to school and three to come home. I spent a total of 90 minutes each way, on a good day, riding buses. The middle bus took the longest, about 45 minutes. One day I had left school at 3:45 P. M. and headed home. It was raining heavily that afternoon. I caught the second bus maybe a few minutes late and was grateful just to be out of the rain. However, the bus was not moving very fast. Traffic was pretty bad and there were times it wasn’t moving at all. What should have been a 45 minute ride was turning into hours. I knew my mother would be worried sick. Who could imagine that a bus ride would take so long in just rain? As I stood in the bus, looking out the window, I saw a phone booth. I was so tempted to jump off the bus and call my mother to let her know I was okay, but I could not be sure of getting back on the bus. I had to stay put and literally ride out the storm. By the time the bus reached my stop, it was 7:30 P. M. or so. I immediately found a phone, before heading to the third bus stop. I called and explained what happened and my mother sent my father to come pick me up. When I got home I saw my mother’s face, careworn and covered with tears. She had been worrying the whole time and I was helpless to do anything to reassure her. I gave her a long hug. My father told me she had been sitting at the window for hours, watching the rain and crying, looking for any sign of me. It was heartbreaking. If cell phones existed back then, I can guarantee you she would have made sure I had one the day after that experience. And even though I knew my mother would be upset and worrying herself to death, I did not fully appreciate all that it meant until I had children of my own.

Some day my own daughters will marry. Unlike my mom, I won’t have a Loretta Lynn hairdo, and I will shed some tears. Of course I will be happy for them. It’s a joyous and beautiful occasion to be celebrated. I won’t be masking any of my tears. There will be tears of joy for their bright future and maybe some selfish tears of sadness for my loss. They say you don’t lose a daughter, you gain a son, and that’s true. But you do lose something. You lose time spent together, there will be much less of that. There will be one less place set at the table for dinner. You look at the empty bed where once an angel’s head rested on a pillow for so many years. You hear one less set of footsteps coming down the creaking stairs for breakfast. There will be one less loud burst of laughter at my silly jokes and mistakes. You have one less person to hug and squeeze tight. And I guess you learn to adjust in time, after all everyone does, right? One day she’s your daughter, and the next she is someone’s wife. One day she is your baby and the next she has babies of her own. And then, and only then, will she understand the tears of a mother.

Happy 97th Birthday in heaven, Mom. I hope you are smiling down on us today and always. I love you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Remnants Of A Friendship...4th Anniversary

This month, in less than two weeks, marks the 4th anniversary of the end of my friendship with Marie. I am surprised at how far I have come during the past four years. For the longest time I thought I would never be able to move on, but the truth is time does heal all wounds. But time doesn’t necessarily take away the scars. The scars may fade with time, but they remain as a reminder of the lessons learned that we shouldn’t forget.

What have I learned? I have never been good at forgiveness. I have had always a hard time with forgiving someone who has hurt me. But I learned forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for yourself. If you don’t forgive, the bad feelings you harbor end up hurting you, not the other person, and they prevent you from moving on in a healthy way. So, back in June, I blogged about Marie one last time when I wrote her an email to forgive a long standing loan that was not fully paid back. I explained that we were moving to a new house and trying to simply our lives, and decided to free her from this debt. She read the email almost immediately and called me.

She started out by saying she wasn’t happy [about my forgiving the loan]. I was a little at a loss for words. She said she fully intended to repay all of it. I told her I knew that, but we felt this was for the best. We went on to talk for two hours, which I didn’t expect. It was a conversation that should have taken place four years ago. She opened the door to the past and I told her I really didn’t want to rehash everything. I had expressed myself quite clearly in a very lengthy email that was extremely painful for me to write. I didn’t get the reaction I had hoped for, but I got the one I expected. She was defensive and made no effort to understand anything I was trying to say. There was nothing else for me to do at the time as I was too emotional to argue/discuss it at that point.

In our last conversation in June, I gathered right away that she still didn’t understand. In her mind I had ended the friendship in that email and walked away. Her memory of that time came across to me as a bit distorted and she really didn’t own her part in the breakdown of the friendship. I told her I hadn’t ended the friendship. My letter never said anything of the kind. I concluded the end of my letter simply saying that since she had been distancing herself for months and avoided my every effort to talk about it, that I now needed time to distance myself to the same degree she had. It was too hard for me to remain at arms length and be continually pushed away, caring as much as I did. She sounded surprised and said her feelings had never changed. I said your actions said otherwise. I explained that my long email, full of examples, was to tell her how things had changed between us, and not meant to be mean. It’s purpose was to express my feelings and to show her exactly what I was talking about with specifics. I told her I was too hurt to speak at that point and had to write it all out. She “accused” me of walking out at the worst time in her life. I told her how would I have known what she was going through, she wasn’t talking to me at the time, except for short, mundane, superficial conversations. She told me she didn’t have the words to explain what she was going through. I told her this had been going on for months, I was hurt, and no matter how I tried to talk to her about it, she would not allow it. I literally had no choice, but to write it out and try to get myself to a healthier state of mind, heal my heart and fill the void she had left.

I reminded her that one month after that email, in October, I wrote to her saying I may be able to talk if she wanted to, but I wasn’t sure if I was really ready. I wanted to be fair to her and so I forced myself to make that offer. I also told her that right after I sent that email, she read it and deleted it without even writing a response. She didn’t remember that at all. To be honest, I knew I wasn’t ready to talk and I felt a big sense of relief that I didn’t have to at that time. I didn’t push it.

In the course of our conversation, she told me a little bit about what was going on in her life. She had quit her teaching job and was moving to another city with her niece. Her niece was having a baby and she was going to help her for a year. I told her she should pursue some of the things she had always talked about doing, like teaching in France or joining the Peace Corps. She always had so many interests that she was passionate about and now she had the time to go after her dreams. She seemed a little happy that I was still giving her advice and said she was looking into some things already. She told me she had taken a trip to New York a few months earlier and had wanted to show up on my doorstep. I told her she should have come, maybe we could have talked face to face and resolved some things or understood each other better. I could tell she was surprised to hear that. I don’t think she understood that her happiness was always a priority to me and that hadn’t changed. I still wanted what was best for her and I always will.

As we got to the end of the conversation, she said she still wanted to repay the loan. I told her the offer stands if she changes her mind. She said she didn’t want me to forgive the loan, she would rather that I forgave her. That was the only admission of any ownership on her part that I heard. I told her I had already forgiven her and have no ill will towards her. I still don’t think she understood what I tried to say in the letter. I think she wanted me to forgive her for how badly she made me feel, but she still says that it was all unintentional on her part. At this point it’s not really important.

The phone call took me by surprise and I was happy we could talk without arguing. We made an effort to understand each other’s side of things, but I don’t think either of us got complete satisfaction. I wanted her to own the things she did to me and how her behavior towards me had changed, pushing me out of her life. She wanted me to admit that I walked away from her when I should have stayed, for as long as it took, to make things right. Where do we go from here? Is there too much water under the bridge? Can we or should we try to rebuild a friendship? Is it even possible? Who knows, time will tell.

Meanwhile, a fourth anniversary is coming up. It’s not a happy anniversary like the ones of the first nine years, but it’s not unhappy either. It’s just a marker of an event in the lives of two friends, who now have kind of settled their unfinished business, and may be able to have some closure.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Seven Weeks After The Move…

Where am I? Well, the boxes are still full to the brim for the most part. The painter spent the last seven days doing “prep” work, basically filling cracks and repairing imperfections in the floor and walls. I had no idea about the details of the preparations involved. I just thought he was going to bring in gallons of paint and slop them on the walls. That’s what my father used to do. The only prep work my father did was to push all the furniture into the center of the room.

Of course, I can’t unpack anything until all this work is done. Today he came early and with a helper. The helper is sanding the doors outside while he finishes prepping. The doors are stain dark cherry but I am having them painted white. Before anyone else has a stroke (like my daughter and cousin), the doors have many imperfections that cannot be eliminated without a costly restoration job. It would be cheaper to buy new doors. Also, I like the idea of white because the house tends to be dark and I want to lighten and brighten it up. I’ve seen the way the white doors look in another house and it has a very nice clean appearance.

It feels like I have been surrounded by a fortress of boxes for months…oh, that’s right, I have been. My house sold in March and I started packing even before that. Now it’s September! It looks like there will be about seven days more of painting, which may start tomorrow. What can I do in the meantime? I can’t unpack and put more stuff in the way. I can’t clean when the next day more dirt and dust are stirred up. My hands are tied.

This “limbo” state I am in comes at a convenient time though. It gives me a chance to help my friend, Kelly, promote her new book, Breaking Limbo. In a way, I am literally breaking my own limbo by sitting on the couch with my computer looking for ideas. It allows me to research different suggestions and websites where I can post her book, it’s reviews, and link on Amazon. So all in all, I am still being productive in my new role as editor.

Once the painting is completed I will be unpacking as much as possible. I still have things to buy like a media center, curtains, area rugs and bathroom towels and accessories. I will have plenty of cleaning to do too…not looking forward to that. Right now I am keeping up with laundry and cooking an occasional meal. It’s even hard to cook when people are working in you house. In fact, although I am sitting around all day, I am totally exhausted. I don’t quite understand it.

In a week or two I should be hearing from the contractor who is doing the front yard/patio. At least that work will be outside and I’ll be able to get things done inside (or so I hope). But, in any event, that will be the last of the work we are doing for now. I will be concentrating on the inside of the house and getting that all done before the holidays. I set Thanksgiving as my goal to be done and settled, so we will see.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Breaking Limbo…A New Book

It’s my great pleasure to write about a new book, Breaking Limbo, written by my friend Kelly O’Callan. It went up on Amazon in Kindle and print yesterday. I could not be happier for her.

About a year and a half ago I wrote a blog called “Follow Your Dreams,” and I mentioned a few friends in it, under pseudonyms. Kelly was one of them. Kelly is a talented writer. One day she let me read one of her books that hasn’t been published. Years ago she had put her writing aside to raise her two young boys. Her dream was on hold. One day she was talking about getting a job. It was hard for her with two children and the daily pain she experienced every day from a car accident she had been in years earlier. As we were talking, I asked her why she doesn’t get back to her writing. She has a gift and it was being wasted. The job search didn’t work out, but one night the characters and plot for a novel just came to her. She began writing. Chapter after chapter came to her as she poured her ideas out on paper. She tells me the characters spoke to her and she just wrote down what they told her. Apparently these characters really wanted their stories told because they were relentless.

As Kelly was nearing the end of her book, Breaking Limbo, I was going into selling and buying a house. For the first time in years I was really busy and stressed out. Kelly mentioned she needed someone to edit her book. I didn’t know exactly what an editor does, but I offered to read it and check for grammar, spelling and word choice issues and anything else that didn’t sound right to my ear. She laughed and said that’s what an editor does! In that case I had years of experience editing because I went over all my girls’ college and high school papers. So the work began!

It was easy editing Kelly’s work. She not only writes very well, but her stories just pull you in so much so you don’t want to put them down. Because I was reading and editing at the same time, I could only read a few chapters a day. In a few short days I had gotten it all edited and sent it back to her to review. We worked well together on the revisions and before you knew it, Breaking Limbo was born.

Kelly not only helped her characters to “break” the limbo they were in, but at the same time, in writing this book, Kelly broke her own limbo. Her dream of writing had been suspended for a few years. She had lost her momentum, but never her innate gift to write and let her imagination run away with itself. I am glad she found her way back to writing and has now self-published her first book.

Now comes the promoting and marketing part. We have to get the word out so people will know about the book and hopefully download it or order the print copy. I hope everyone who reads this blog will take a moment to go to Amazon and check it out.  Today Kelly got her first review from a reader, on Amazon, and they gave it five stars. It’s well deserved. If you do read the book, will you also take a few minutes to write a review? It would be very much appreciated.

Here is the link where you can download the book for free right now: Breaking Limbo on Amazon

PS Kelly just did a Great Interview which you can read here: Kelly O'Callan Writer's Anarchy Interview