Material Possessions

Whenever I tell my friend a story about the latest annoying thing my cats have done, he usually says, “Cats are dicks.”

This latest little incident makes me say the same thing.

I started off the day after a rough night. I learned the hard way; I’m really too old for greasy burgers, no matter how good they taste. So let’s just say I was running late to a meeting. After the meeting, I was to go straight to a 9 hour tech day with the band. I threw my bassoon and gig bag into the back of the car and started the day.

After the meeting, I got back into the car and wondered why my car smelled like cat pee.

When I got to the rehearsal, I placed my instrument and bag down to help with the sound set up. About an hour later, I got back to my bag to start pulling out reeds and put the bassoon together. That’s when I realized one of the cats had left me a present.

Last week we discovered that the dehumidifier we recently turned on was disturbing their bathroom routine. The motor was too loud and on too much because of the humidity. Their routine was disturbed. A couple of days ago I noticed one of the cats was acting a little more psycho than usual. She was actually panting. I thought she was chasing down a housefly.

I went to work early. Got a text from my husband that he stepped on some cat poop on the way out the door. That’s when we figured out the dehumidifier issue. That was Thursday.

The cats found a way to tell me that they were still upset.

Thankfully, the gig bag rests on top of the bassoon, so nothing seeped through to my instrument. I also have a towel in my bag that caught most of it; but not the heavy duty straps I use for standing. Luckily, I had a second strap for the rehearsal. I put my bag somewhere away from the rest of the cast on concrete, so the smell wouldn’t seep into any other fabrics.

When I got home, I started to pull things out of the bag, thankful to have only put in things I needed for this gig. Things that got hit besides the heavy straps – my reed tool bag full of tools, a pair of black socks I forgot were there, and the towel from the Heidelberg tour in 1995. I took out all the tools. They each passed the sniff test; even the wooden handles – thank God! These tools are expensive. I even saved the memory of a deposit check I wrote to my first symphony audition that I won. This memory was tucked away in a side pocket – just like a memory tucked away in my brain.

I put the bag, the heavy straps, the socks, and the towel in a volcano bath (white vinegar and baking soda, diluted with water) to soak for 30 minutes. After rinsing, I put them in a load of laundry (don’t tell my daughter). Transferred the load to the dryer and went to bed, hoping I didn’t ruin the whole load.

The soak worked. I’m happy to say that the tool bag, the straps and the towel survived. It’s little like Linus’ blanket.

They are just material possessions. But when one starts to age, these things have more memories when you face the possibility of losing them. I felt the pinch of what these things meant; a former life of a professional musician. Not that I regret the decision I made to leave that life when I became a mother. But that these were tangible things that proved that life happened. I feel better knowing that towel is in my bag.

And yes, cats are dicks.



Albums & Ice Cream, edition 5

Earlier this week, two things happened to inspire the 5th issue/edition of Albums & Ice Cream. The weekly CSA (farm share) offered second pint of sweet cherries and I had a day trip with my son to the Jersey shore.

The first quart of cherries were pitted and set out on the table last week, eaten within a couple of days. The second quart was pitted, but after listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in the car with my son explaining to me all of the musical details, it only made sense to put these together on this post.

I had a job as a teen at the Kenosha Spot Drive In; serving ice cream sundaes and making shakes, malts and root beer whirls. We had four flavors; vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and one rotating “other” flavor, either butter pecan, or New York Cherry. I loved that ice cream with hot fudge. I don’t see this flavor very often in our regular ice cream parlors, so I wonder if it’s a “vintage” flavor, or one that was more regional to the mid-west. Which would be weird since it was “New York” cherry.

Oddly, the only recipes I found were Philly style base.  I prefer the French style. I’m getting better at making my own custard base, with a bit of consideration toward sensibility. I’m not religiously following the instruction to use 6 egg yolks. I use three whole eggs, and temper them more carefully. The strainer takes care of the tiny bits of white that cook. I also add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to keep it from freezing into a solid block of ice. This batch was a basic vanilla ice cream with an added splash of almond extract, then fresh local cherries cut in half and stirred into the custard by the machine.

While my son’s insights into the Pink Floyd album were more focused on the drums and lyrics, I was listening with a flush of memories of recording a Tribute Band of the album name in Rochester for my doctoral studies. I was applying anthropological theory and research practice to understand the attraction of a then new phenomenon in the local music scene; the tribute band. I saw a connection to audience building for the symphony orchestra, and made the case in my work, much to the dismay of the conservative music history department at Eastman. This was 1995, the height of the culture wars, and before the term” audience building” was a thing in the arts. I was onto something then, and I still am today.

96 of 100


What I’m Thinking – June 18

What I’m Thinking – June 18

Sundays are good days for taking things a little slower. For getting up a little earlier to weed the garden before it gets too hot. To not be bothered by the kids sleeping in. To have a quiet conversation with my husband. To give my son the brunch making duties. To hide away in my office for some blogging reflection.

I’m nearing the end of the 100 posts in 100 days writing challenge. I started to build a habit of writing daily, and to push through the demon self-editor. I haven’t read my posts. OK, I have read one or two, but only to see if I had written about the topic before. To get through the challenge, I started categories to help me think of topics, hoping they’d be interesting. But trying not to think about if readers liked it or not.

It’s not that I don’t care if the reader is engaged. It’s that if I worry too much about what people think, I will not try. The fear monster gains strength and her greatest weapon of destruction is procrastination.

I’ve mentioned a daily blogger that I read, Seth Godin. There are too many days when his morning post supports the exactly thought I’m having. Today was spot on:
The 100 posts in 100 days challenge was like learning to walk. Of course, I stumbled. But I’m happy to say that I feel really good about persisting through the “ah, screw it” thought.

As a musician, I should know this is the only way to really learn how to do something. This mind set informs my own teaching as well. But I don’t always approach change this way. I’m sure it’s fear of ridicule, imposter syndrome, or showing signs of weakness.

But I want to be successful in other areas. Too many other areas. I have to make some choices and small changes. The biking to work goal is going well; but I have to manage saboteurs better.  Other health decisions are too easily passed to “ah, screw it” because I haven’t developed better choices that lead to long term habits. If I limit the choices, I may make better decisions. Funny, that’s how I got my toddlers to cooperate…
“You can have strawberries or bananas.”
“You can wear this outfit, or that outfit.”
“When you sit quietly through this lecture, you will get a reward of playing in a fountain. If you choose not to cooperate, no playtime in the fountain.”
“You either come with me now, or I’ll leave you in the park all alone to be eaten by wolves…” (This is what I say to them now, as 14 year olds.)

I’ve got to mother myself. Give myself less choices. Take smaller steps and be happy with the steps, not the distance covered in a day, or a week, or a month.

89 0f 100


What I’m Seeing – June 15

When you have a friend kind enough to tell you there’s something stuck in your teeth, you are grateful.

When you have a friend who on a spontaneous lunch date listens to your whining about not going on your planned trip to Wisconsin, and wondering what to do with the time now available…. and before you can even take a breath for yet another droning….

“Get a hair cut.”

I’ve been growing out a pixie cut. First, as a lesson to my daughter that hair always grows back. She’s not buying it – loves her hair long enough to sit on. Then as a dare – how long can I let it grow before I’m completely disgusted. Mostly because pixie maintenance had to move off the budget.

Well, my friend saved me an impending episode of morning revulsion. I was happy to make an appointment with the stylist I like so much, I’ll follow her to any salon. She practices reflective listening, and has always managed to style my hair in to a flattering adaptation of what I say to what actually fits my face. And she doesn’t try to get me to color my hair. She actually styles the gray highlights as a face framing feature.

The stylist took this picture. I can see how the back of my head has more grays than I’ve seen before. I like how evenly they are coming in. But with hair color turning as I age, I shouldn’t let myself go without some grooming for so long. Today I went from scraggly mess, to a bob.

Guess this means tomorrow I drink water at the office out of a fancier glass.

86 of 100

Note: Let me know if you’d like the name of my stylist. She’s amazing.

What I’m thinking – June 13

I was supposed to be going to bed early tonight so I can get an early start to a road trip to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in five years.

I was supposed to have an awesome time re-telling college stories, and visiting a place near and dear to my heart.

I was supposed to spend a couple of days with my mom before coming back to Bethlehem.

But my eyes aren’t supposed to float apart. So it means using the time to figure out how to pace the strain I put on my eyes to see if I can go a few more months before I finally give in to surgery.

One song keeps rolling around and around in my head for this moment:

84 of 100

What I’m Researching – June 10

The first time I went to the doctor to find out why I was seeing double, my GP sent me to a neurologist. In 2010, the initial tests were for neurological disorders. I knew from the beginning, I wasn’t experiencing MS symptoms; and I was a little mad that we weren’t looking at less invasive tests before we went down the path of medieval spinal taps. (No thank you)

So I let it go for two years, until my work was severely challenged. I was driving many miles back and forth to Harrisburg for a fellowship in educational leadership. While the road became familiar, double vision isn’t fun in construction zones. So back to the doctor. This time, my husband suggested I see an ophthalmologist. He has to see one regularly for his MS.

Besides a pretty snarky bedside manner, I liked this guy. He diagnosed me with strabismus and gave me a prism clip to attach to my glasses to see if that would pull my eye back into alignment. It looked a little steampunk. I only clipped it on when I was alone in my office or in rehearsals. As much as I’ve been trained to keep looking at the conductor, I only want to see one of them.

In the last four years, I’ve had to increase the prism of my prescription three times. Each time, keeping with the same frames because my script is pretty pricey. I found out this week, that there’s no more prism increase for my shifting eyes. Surgery is the next step.

The procedure is common. Once he sees the condition of the muscles that are supposed to hold my eye in balance with the other eye, he would decide whether to weaken one muscle, or tighten the other. It would mean a week of recovery, and my eye will hurt, be bloody, and probably look like I was in a fight. Or worse, if the surgery goes wrong, I could end up looking like Marty Feldman. Which may be a blessing in disguise if I want to change careers and become a comic…

I thought the migraines were from weather changes. Turns out, I read more when it’s raining out. I also wear out my eyes with reed making, computer work, and writing. The reason I feel so much better when I cook is that it gives my eyes a break from close-up examination.

Next step is to determine the out of pocket expense. And how where I can find sparkles to bedazzle my eye patch! See gallery for some ideas I’ve found so far…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

81 of 100

When was the last time….? June 2

When was the last time….? June 2

Friday night. Both kids are away on an overnight band/orchestra school trip. They are in the capable hands of other parents and their music teachers.

The last time we were away from the kids for a night was more than a year ago when we had a concert opportunity we couldn’t refuse. Luckily, our neighbor helped us.

I honestly think this is the first time since they were born, that Steve and I have the home to ourselves. It’s fun, but at the same time, a little unbalancing. Something is missing.

I wonder how this feeling might grow in four years, if they decide to leave home for college. I’m just going to put this feeling here for now. It’s not a crisis, it’s not anything to be sad about. It just is.

73 of 100