- Staying Safe
- Pay It Forward
- A Funny Family Story
- Words of Caution from a Church Organist (Beware of Paperclips)
- Bungling Rainbow Bridge
- An Old Soul
- Inspiration for your next MRI
- Easter 2017
- I Could Paint That
- All went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
- Easter 2016
- Barbados 2016
- Thanksgiving – Outside the Box
- Who’s In Charge Of Reincarnation?
- Art Collecting Without Guilt
- Falling in Love with Natalie (again)
- What Does George W. Bush Have In Common With The Sacred Ordinary?
- Everyday Objects
- It’s All About The Frame
- Piddling as Spiritual Practice
Blogs I Follow:
- Beauty as Spiritual Practice February 22, 2012
- let me walk in beauty May 7, 2012
- A Late Fox August 12, 2021
- NUMBER 308 August 31, 2021
- Living a Dream: Owning A Bookstore September 2, 2021
- How to Write the Perfect First Sentence for a Memoir September 5, 2021
- Meet my new digital piano: a Kawai CN29! September 17, 2021
- Parallels between Hospice and Reiki May 25, 2013
- God In Disguise February 17, 2015
At the doctor’s yesterday – waiting in my examining room with the door open (it’s the eye doctor, so you don’t have to take your clothes off) I overhear staff and doctor discussing Mrs. Somebody who is in the waiting room, has insurance issues, will be self-pay, and doesn’t have money. Mrs. Somebody is asking if the doctor will see her anyway. He tells the staff he will see her at a reduced fee, which he names. (sounds generous to me)
I finish up my exam and go out front to pay. Mrs. Somebody is in the waiting room weeping and making a scene. Another patient – an old Jewish lady who reminded me of Mildred Gromfine – interrupts.
“Can I help?”
“Do you need some money? Can I help? How much is it?”
“It’s a lot. It’s $100”
“Oh, $100….. That is a lot.”
The conversation ends. My co-pay taken care of, I slink out to the hallway and end up riding the elevator with Mrs. Somebody, while staring very hard at my shoes.
I want to be the kind of person the old Jewish lady almost was.
I want to be Honey I Can Help You.
I want to be Pay It Forward.
But of course, I don’t want to be a sucker….
What would you do?
My mother-in-law, Alice, lived in our basement apartment for ten years. There were many fine things about this arrangement, chief among them that she was able to see her family every day.
We also got free child care.
The child care conditions included unlimited amounts of television as well as sugar on request. What better way to be a loving grandma?
You can imagine the maternal anxiety about this situation. Upstairs, mom is trying to make organic and nutritious meals and snacks. Dad is more relaxed about these kinds of details.
Parents spar in the kitchen.
“I don’t want him eating all that crap!”
“What’s wrong with ice cream for breakfast?”
Well, there was a fair amount of this crap being consumed – Tasty Cakes, Kit Kats, Giant Brand Tapiocas, Rocky Road Ice Cream. Not only by my son, David, but by his buddies as well. The children were upstairs downstairs upstairs downstairs, enjoying second breakfasts and first dinners, and no surprise they didn’t want to sit down for spaghetti at 6:30.
Grandma Alice was a strict Baptist, having been married to a clergyman. In her home there was no card playing, no dancing, and no swearing. TV watching and cookie serving were her only morally questionable traits.
Alice was also a retired elementary school teacher, and a master at not sweating the small stuff.
One morning David padded down to Alice’s apartment and asked,
“Grandma Alice, could I please have some crap?”
To which she replied,
“Exactly what kind of crap would you like?”
Sermons at the Methodist church in Martinsville, Indiana were long – a good thirty minutes long.
The little Schantz organ was tucked in a corner, and so….
Noone would notice if the organist passed time by dusting the keys.
Noone would notice pencils being put away in their cup.
Noone would notice a stray paperclip on the floor or see the organist reach her slender fingers between the organ pedals to neaten things up.
The paperclip maneuver required an acute bend of the torso and tuck of the shoulder under the bottom manual. On that particular day it also involved a slight bend of the head into General 6 Piston – the one set for last verse of the hymn or “pull out all the stops”.
With feet planted firmly on the pedals, and shoulder lodged immovably under the great manual, the sermon was interrupted for a Very Long Time.
photo by Maarten van den Heuvel
Aunt Evelyn’s ashes had been in our china cupboard for a couple years, waiting for their trip to San Francisco. She wanted to be scattered under the Golden Gate Bridge, where she had scattered her husband’s ashes.
Now, it’s illegal to just chuck things off bridges and generally illegal to chuck things – especially human cremains – off of boats without special permission. The boats that give special permission cost $800 an hour, and while Aunt Evelyn was never a practical person, I certainly am one, and so I and my accomplices set off to honor her wishes.
Human cremains are more copious and heavy than one might imagine, and so three of us divided the ashes into plastic baggies, which we put in our pockets and backpacks. Walking the bridge, we surreptitiously scooped tiny handfuls to sprinkle through the holes in the sidewalk. (do NOT tell anyone)
Too many ashes to complete from the bridge, lest we get caught and locked up in Alcatraz, we found a beach upstream to scatter the leftovers.
I began by ceremoniously plopping some ashes too far away from the waves. Aunt Evelyn’s grey ash did NOT blend in with the tan San Francisco sand, but shimmered in the sun, announcing my ineptitude. My second toss made it closer and waves washed her to sea – the sun catching specks of glitter in the ash and lending some beauty to the ceremony. What is that glitter? Mica? Dental fillings?
That night we slept at the Airport Travel Lodge (NOT San Francisco’s finest) because we were catching an early morning flight to Oahu. While arranging our backpacks for the next day we discovered one more baggie of Aunt Evelyn. What to do?!?!?! TSA would not allow this powdery substance without the original documentation and box, which we no longer had. It was a hard call, but Poor Aunt Evelyn now resides in the Travel Lodge planters, along with greenery, flowers and cigarette butts. She did smoke!
I was sorry not to bring part of her to Hawaii. In our vacation condo, YouTube provided island music. I’d like to say that I googled Israel Kamakawiwoole, but you can see why it’s easier to type in “fat Hawaiian singer”. He weighed over 700 pounds, so his stature was distinctive. Aunt Evelyn liked the expression Rainbow Bridge, and our destination of Waianae, Oahu felt like a link to her. In addition to Hawaiian rainbows, this tiny place was Israel’s hometown, and housed a proud statue in his honor.
Here is his famous song, as well as a video of the voyage where nothing at all was bungled. I hope Aunt Evelyn is going along for the ride. Click the link below and watch to the very end if you have time. Aloha!
At age six, Alistair was wise beyond his years – an old soul.
Dignified, polite, interested in music and the arts, Alistair would never have done anything like interrupting a person, putting his feet on the sofa or coming to his piano lesson with dirty hands.
Not that I’m a frilly lady piano teacher who could be affronted by such things.
On his birthday, Alistair’s father dropped him off with a little cake. Apparently the celebration was to take place during his piano lesson.
The father left. The piano teacher taught.
At a quarter of the hour, we took out the cake, laid plates and napkins (of course), lit the candles and sang Happy Birthday.
Alistair was thrilled!!!
Smiling broadly, he stammered,
“This is really nice. Let’s do this every year, until we’re both….until we’re both….men.”
Who couldn’t do Abstract Landscape Painting?
I arrive early at The Art League’s classroom all ready to CREATE. No need to feel intimidated. Any four year old can do this stuff. In fact, the idea of wielding colors around reminds me of those free-flowing kindergarten days.
Unlike Miss Cotrell’s Kindergarten class, we should have received a supply list and brought items to class.
The other students got the memo. They arrive with so many tubes of paint and fancy art tools that they travel with specialized art tool chests on wheels.
I arrived with a pocket sized notebook and pencil.
After the introductory lecture about how to lay an expressionist base, the teacher sends me off to the store where I spend a couple hundred dollars on acrylics, brushes, canvases and a thing called Gesso, which I had read about but guess I’d been pronouncing incorrectly.
When I return to the class-in-progress, I see two different kinds of student art works:
- #1 The Barfed On Canvas.
- #2 The Canvas I Want To Buy.
After class, I approach a woman who has done a #2 type painting.
“I love your painting.”
Unmoved, she says something like thank you.
“Do you love your painting?” I ask this hoping she might say that I can have it.
“It’s a lot different from what I usually do.”
I would feel like a jerk saying “I’ll give you $100 for it,” so I don’t.
I regret it.
It happens she’s a graphic designer. I learn there are three graphic designers in the class, looking for their muses. There are also award-winning landscape painters, all taking the class to learn “letting go”.
Our first assignment is to be loose – out of control. Baby, I am the queen of no control. We begin with bold black strokes, applied randomly on large canvases. I call this The Preliminary Barfing Stage. It lays the base for the illness which will continue with dry heaves for another two hours of art class.
My painting is so bad that I leave it in the art school restroom where it belongs.
Later, an artist friend, Allen, counseled, “Make a list of everything you hate about your painting and then do the opposite.”
I give myself permission to sit quietly with a tiny piece of paper. I take a sip of water. I breathe Zen, I dip into gray and stroke one time with my brush. I let gravity have the second turn.
Do you remember the euphoria that comes after vomiting? The chills and fever are done. The stomach has calmed. The terrible illness has finally passed.
With the proper lighting and frame the Hirshorn will have a line and timed ticket entries for Zen Plop Collection. Don’t you think so?
There’s nothing a church musician hates more than one more “Merry Christmas!” We’re not Scrooges, but think of the poor tax accountant on 4-15. Imagine April 15 as a much-loved time of gift giving and feasting. The tax accountant is chained to her desk, which is heaped with papers – clients are lining the hallway waiting their turn. No “Happy Tax Day!” for her.
A typical Christmas Eve where I work:
- 11am Children’s Pageant
- 4pm Children’s Pageant
- 6pm Christmas Service
- 8pm Christmas Service
- 10:30 pm Christmas Service
And y’all come back now for noon on Christmas Day!
Merry Christmas To You Too, Buddy!
My guard is up against that bastard Pere Noel. I’ve actually had a bruised buttocks from sitting on the organ bench so long.
But today is April 15, far far away from Jesus’ birthday party. I’m safely in my studio teaching piano lessons – coaxing young students to read music.
Often I use songs children know to make a fun puzzle of bass and treble, whole and half, space and line. Even in April I’m not above pulling out a carol collection for a reluctant reader. What seven-year-old can resist Jingle Bells? My student, Jasmine, said she did not know The First Noel. I sit down to play it for her. It’s April. My guard is down.
And sneaky Father Christmas sprinkled magic on my heart.
It’s the best time of the year!