Monday, September 28, 2009

Memory Monday: Where the piano earns a bad rap

Being a good mother, or so I supposed, I wanted to expose my sons to the arts. We went to museums and plays. And, I wanted them to learn an instrument.

The one of choice would be the one already available and sitting in the den: the piano. So began several years of punishment for us all.

The only way to describe Son number 2's experience with the piano is as torture. He... well, they just weren't made for each other. There wasn't enough movement for him, because we who play know there isn't supposed to be any wiggling around, etc. We gave up after a year. He is, however, a pretty good dancer, even took salsa lessons while in Costa Rica. Movement.

Son number 1 lasted about three years before I just gave up and eventually put my energies toward fighting some other cause with him. He'd had some talent and has said now that he wishes he'd stayed with it. Well, duh. Haven't we all said that about some pursuit we've abandoned. And, so we can complete the mother-son circle: I told you you'd regret quitting.

But his household has my mother's piano and his daughter, age 2, will sit on the bench for all of 10 seconds. Perhaps there's hope that she'll settle down and not follow in her uncle's motion-happy ways. If not, there's always the salsa.

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Critter count

One more raccoon has been relocated to the country. Where, as we all know, raccoons belong for the good life.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Playin' possum

Yesterday morning I heard the commotion before I even opened the back door to feed Sammy, Duchess, and crew. The outdoor cats were upset about something and it was quickly obvious who: two half-grown raccoons were variously running across the fenced backyard and climbing the hackberry tree. They'd already made a fine mess of the cats' water by spilling it and leaving dirt in the bowl. No sooner did I put down food for the cats and go back inside to watch, than one bold fellow was onto the food. I put an end to that by opening the door and yelling at him.

I haven't seen raccoons all summer and now there were two. It was time to trap.

So last night I set the trap between the hackberry tree and the regular feeding spot. I loaded it with a pear and sunflower seeds and spent five minutes chasing cat Sammy away from it.

Ninety minutes later, the trap had done its trap-thing. Wonderful! Except I'd got a possum.

Now, I haven't seen a possum in/near our yard in ten years. How befuddling is this? Still, even though he wasn't who I wanted, I couldn't let him go.

Today, he has a new country home, which is where he belongs instead of mere blocks from downtown. Tonight, I'll try again for the elusive raccoons. Wish me luck!

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Friday, September 25, 2009

A quick catch-up

Re: the luggage. Got it today. Still have not received my personal call from customer service that it's on its way.

Re: the leggings. Wore them. In public. Yeah, me!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's all in the timing

So Monday I realized that there were several dangling shopping problems that needed an answer around here. My emails about these items had either been ignored or the website had been too "busy" to accept my web form. It was time to take matters literally into my own hands and--egad!--use the telephone.

I know, how old fashioned of me. Well, occasionally technology defeats us and we have to resort to the old ways. And this is how it went:

Problem 1: Tickets for a play the end of Oct. The Romance Readers are going, my card is charged for 9 tickets, and the confirmation email said they'd be mailed in 7 days. That was 21 days ago as of Monday. So I punched the number. Answered promptly. Seems they were just then getting the tickets printed. My name was found, the tickets were confirmed verbally and I was assured they'd be sent out that day and I should get them within the week. Tuesday they arrived.

I guess I should have waited to call, but how can you ever really be sure? It's like getting a computer. You have to jump on the wagon some where. But, I REALLY should have waited on the next call.

Problem 2: We'd placed an order with a company in August for 4 items. Two they were shipping and two were shipped from the vendors. Three items arrived in two packages quite promptly. They were on my credit card bill. No problem. The problem was the fourth item, a piece of luggage which we really want for an upcoming trip. I knew it was back-ordered until mid-Sept. Looked at the calendar. It was mid-Sept. I tried the website, but it was no go. Everyone else must have had it tied up. So I called.

Fifteen minutes of listening to the same voice tell me the same thing over and over and I was looking for things to do. I dared not hang up. Finally, a customer service rep answered. I use that term lightly because no matter how I tried to explain the situation, I was told the article had been shipped the end of August, it was delivered to my post office, I was charged for it (she gave me the amount for one of the other packages), and there wasn't a thing to do about it until 30 days had passed. As there was no arguing with this, I said I'd check with my post office.

Four hours later, I call back, wait another 15 minutes, listen to the same incessant spiel, and get another customer service rep. A real one. One who said she'd check on the problem, because yes, the item was still on order, and get back to me via phone.

Monday evening, I get an email from another part of the company which says the item has shipped from the vendor.

Now any day I expect two things: the item and the phone call from the second customer service rep informing me of the shipment. I think I know which I'll get first.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Memory Monday: The piano and me: Part 4--Soul Full

After a three-year sojourn in the Eastern Time Zone (How do they do it? No wonder the Coasts have issues: they don't get enough sleep because of their TV schedule.), it was time to move back to the sanity of the Central. What had been a one-bedroom move three years before had morphed into two babies, three bedrooms, a washer and dryer, and a piano.

We were, the moving company estimator told me, a big truck move. Besides that, he was eyeing the piano now, moving that would be an extra $175.

So my piano and I had a conference and decided what was another $175? Well, thirty years ago, that's not really what happened. I simply knew that if we didn't bring it with us, it might be years before we found the extra money to buy another one. Besides, the piano was of the same vintage as the house. They were made for each other. If it didn't come, I'd be without and the boys, toddler and infant though they were at the time, would not have access to piano lessons. (Another blog and not a happy one.)

The piano came. It has occupied the same piece of real estate in our house ever since, one of the few pieces of furniture which can claim that. But an upright piano is like an 800-pound gorilla. It does sit where it wants to.

I kept it tuned, endured the boys' piano lessons, played for myself, practiced for choir, listened as my neighbor made it sing one night, and then let it go into disfavor. I stopped getting it tuned; I stopped playing.

Then granddaughter Emily arrived on the scene. Her house has my mother's spinet. Emily likes to sit on the bench and act like she's playing. One day she will, and I'll sit her on my lap and we'll play together. So I had the piano tuned.

Not wishing to waste all that, I've started playing again. Not well, I might add. My fingers are arthritic and my hand span is no longer 10 keys.

But it's working its way back into my soul.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting a leg up

Part of me can't believe I did this, but the other part is just thrilled--I bought leggings! They seemed to be in all the catalogs and the little (depending upon your size) gray outfit in Soma's new catalog was just sooo tempting. Not trusting myself to like it by merely ordering it online (I hate sending things back), I found a store and tried it on. Had to adjust (down!) the size of the leggings which went under the tunic.

I thought I looked pretty good for an old gal. So I turned around and bought a pair of black capri-length leggings too!

Now to wear them. In public.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Belting it out

A good ten, if not fifteen, years ago, I bought a Brighton "silver" chain belt. I've worn it and cherished it and taken it for granted. Upon closer inspection the other day, I found lots of wear and rub-off and I knew it had to be replaced. Reluctantly, I started hunting for a new one.

Not immediately finding anything I liked--or was willing to pay for (I KNOW I didn't pay over $50 for it--surely not!)--I put the whole idea on the back burner. Then yesterday, at a mall, I saw a Brighton shop and thought--why not?

There, hanging among all the other belts, was one identical to mine. The Santa Rosa, I believe the clerk said. I couldn't believe it was still in production. I'd actually picked out a popular item all those years ago. To be sure I wasn't letting myself off the hook too easily, I tried on another style. It wasn't me, so my new Santa Rosa came home with me. And, yes, I paid more than $50.

The ease the money departed from me wasn't the, uh, biggest surprise, though. (Truthfully, I should not have been surprised at either event. Not really.) As I held it up to my old one and compared its bright and shiny essence to the rubbed off, bound for the second hand store favorite, I also found that I'd had to buy a bigger size. Not a lot bigger, mind you. But bigger.

I guess more money wasn't the only more I needed.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Memory Monday: The piano and me: Part 3--Making a house a home

And then it was gone from my everyday life. I went to college. Pianos abounded but played by people far more talented than I. I hadn't the nerve to sit at one, no matter how deep the urge. (Secretly I think Miss Tennie must have planted some version of "your fingers will always itch for a keyboard" in the garden room air just to get us back for not knowing our theory.)

But I digress. No easily playable piano for seven years. Then, we move to Georgia, to an apartment complex with sets of 8 apartments per building. Four on each side, up and down, with a breezeway. We were the first people to live in ours. There was practically a new house smell! Less than a month after we moved in, a family, the first of many, moved in next door. They had two teenage daughters and a piano. It was an older upright, one the girls had painted yellow and decorated with daisies and flower-power prints. It was in the breezeway and it was for sale.

Seventy five dollars later, it was rolled into what passed for our dining room. It even had a matching bench! It also needed to be tuned in the worst way and something had to be done about the yellow and the flowers.

Figuring the punishment fit the crime of painting it in the first place, I hired the teens to help me strip it and restain it. It was made of beautiful quarter-sewn dark oak. I had now doubled the price of my newest acquisition. But that wasn't all. Having basically put the cart before the horse, I found a piano tuner. Perhaps I should have done that first before the effort of making it into a pretty piece of useless furniture?

He was an older man and quickly informed me that even upon its birth in 1915 or so, my piano had not been first class. I accepted that. I wasn't a first class player. There was no use in casting pearls before... well, you get the idea. Several hours later, having now more than tripled the price of my piano, he played it until it sang.

He left, I sat down and played, probably out of a hymnal, or something borrowed. Maybe Mother had already mailed me my music. I just know I had it and our apartment, far from Texas and all that was familiar, finally felt real. I had a piano and had, in many ways, come home.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Conning the swimsuit conundrum

Not to be so easily defeated, I tried another tactic to acquire an end-of-season swimsuit. I found a department store with an entire rack of swim apparel odds and ends. Mismatched, mixed size, to be sure, but an entire carousel of them, all 75% off.

It was a victory of sorts. I found bottoms which would accommodate mine, although the little shorts are an XL and the skirt is a medium, and I think my size is more true to an XMed, but alas, that size doesn't exist. Same designer label, but now that one of them was $8 and the other $11, I brought both of them home.

Who knows? Next year I may find their tops.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Swimsuit conundrum

I'm all for end-of-the-season shopping. It's when I get some of my best stuff, both in the clothing and decorative household departments. I'm a buy-and-hold sort of gal. At least in the clothing arena, I usually get several wears out of my new acquisitions. Just recently, I've indulged in near-give-away-priced sandals and crops and I'm enjoying all of them.

So, I thought to update my one-piece swimsuit because I may be needing one in a month or so. I'm not one to leap into the pool, not having learned to swim until my late-20s (thanks, Mother, for putting your fears off on me), but occasionally, just to be sociable, one must dangle the feet in the water. My suit is probably 10 years old and, while little worn, isn't... well, heck, I wanted a tankini and a skirt, okay?

It's the end of swimsuit season. Should have been a piece of cake to acquire a new one. Alas, I was a month too late, I fear. What was left hanging from the racks might have fit either my Barbie doll or my teddy bear, but not me. This was true across quite a few stores and even online, unless I wanted to pay real prices. Oh, please. It's September. Sale, remember?

So, my old suit and I will once again slink into the shallow end of the pool. I did find, already in my possession, a pair of short gym shorts which I can wear over said suit. It's not like I'm trying to hide a part of my body or anything, but I wet the shorts down like they'd been in the pool and timed how long they took to dry hanging up.

If the suit goes, they go too. And next summer, I'll start shopping in August.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Memory Monday: The piano and me: Part 2--Miss Tennie

Miss Tennie, my music teacher, lived in an old two-story house with a friend of hers, whose name escapes me now, but I'll conjure it up eventually, be a good blogger and properly edit this post. Or at least add a PS. Miss Tennie taught piano and Miss Mary (remembered it--yeah!) worked elsewhere but also kept the books for the enterprise. The house was white wood with tall ceilings and Victorian furniture. It didn't smell closed-up, so much as unused on a daily basis. The bedrooms were upstairs, the kitchen and music room down, plus a garden room where we always waited for our lessons. In good weather, you could go outside and sit in the double swing and admire the garden. Otherwise, it was homework and old comic books. Smart students studied their theory and fingering, which may be why I remember more about the garden and the comics.

During the year, we had smaller recitals with Miss Tennie carefully scheduling when you should come, parents in tow. The music room opened up into what would have been a living room and folding chairs were assembled there. Twenty parents and I think it would have been full, so there was a constant in-and-out. Plus, she didn't want everyone in the garden room waiting their turn either. You had to be silent in the garden room.

For these smaller recitals, you would walk out in front of everyone's parents and yours, announce your name and the name of the piece, sit down, gather your wits because ohmygod! you had had to memorize this, place your hands just-so on the keyboard of the grand, and play. At the end, a perfect-10 or why-are-they-wasting-their-money-on-lessons, you curtseyed or bowed, gender specific. All this in preparation for the end-of-school church recital.

This took place over two nights in Miss Tennie's church which sported a fine grand. The first night started with the youngest pupils and moved onward. Somewhere in the high-elementary grades, the first night would end. Accomplishment 1: being last on the first night program. Accomplishment 2: being last, and by default the best pupil she had, on the second.

Somewhere in the middle of my years, she was in a car accident and her right (I think) hand was broken. While it did repair to a certain extent, she was never able to reach an octave again. This pained her emotionally (and maybe physically although she never said) and thank goodness, I was old enough to be aware of it.

Miss Tennie fell ill my junior year in high school and that was the end of my lessons. To my shame, I was glad. I was ready to move on to what I considered bigger and better activities. But I'll never forget her, the thin white hair in a bun, the orthopedic-looking shoes, the hands, though crippled, which could make a piano sing... Thank you, Miss Tennie. If memories are what life's about, I have you to thank for many of them.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Aunt Grace

At church this morning, we had a guest minister. His wife was related to members of the congregation so the day turned into a mini-family reunion for them, including the celebration of Aunt Grace's 101st birthday.

Not that I could have looked around the congregation and chosen who was 101. We have an older group of regulars and a few are nearing their centennial, but Aunt Grace didn't appear to be someone who was over it. She had come from out of town, even! Sitting on the front row, she wore wrist-length pink gloves which matched her floral dress. From my perch in the choir rows, I was charmed even before services started.

And then I was totally in awe. A younger relative (younger being relative when one is 101), maybe younger than me by a decade but no more, arrived. She, too, was a stranger to me. Aunt Grace was overjoyed to see her and the feeling was obviously mutual. She knelt in front of Aunt Grace, became eye to eye, hand to hand with her, and they talked and laughed. I thought how lucky they both were, this young niece or granddaughter to have known this woman and revered her for so long, and this centenarian, to be so honored.

And I missed all the older women in my life who've died and who I won't have a chance to wish happy birthday any more.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Mounting the charm offensive

Saturdays are the one day I let myself turn off the alarm clock and sleep until I wake up. I'm fairly safe from waaayyy oversleeping for two reasons: 1) I have a very good internal clock which will wake me up within an hour of my regular time and 2) I have a very good external clock by the name of Pyewacket.

Pye, 8-year-old neutered male, inside cat always with not-so-good litter box manners and missing three teeth since surgery last week, is an army which marches on its stomach. His weight loss a couple years ago set us a back a pretty penny, only to not find a cause of such. He is a demanding boy, annoying at times, especially when it comes to food. He wants his small saucer of milk in the morning before I get my cereal (uh, no. I pour his, I pour mine.), and his special treat, given about noon, has him lined up by ten. I'm not sure where he keeps his watch, but his sense of time is unerring.

The courthouse clock strikes woke me at 6:30, well within my internal clock range. That was all that Pye needed, once he saw me stir, to leap into feed-me-now mode.

He launched onto the bed, strolled up my side of it, and nosed me. Not getting a warm response, he went into annoy-mode. He walked across the bedside table to the window sill, nudging the lampshade and disturbing my reading glasses. He knocked off the emory board, bumped the alarm clock, chin-rubbed the blinds.

Not getting the response he wanted, me--up!, he mounted a new offensive, the charm mode. Purring, he laid down half an inch from my fingers, just where I would have to stretch in order to pet him. He alternately advanced and retreated, allowing me to stroke his back and tweak his tail before starting over just beyond range.

I tried to doze. He came by for another round, then jumped off the bed. Five minutes later, he was at it again. I gave up and got up.

Who says they haven't brains? I was played like a grand piano.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What half a century + of love (and neglect) can do

The subject has been teddy bears around the house and with friends and family. I'm having special ones made for the now-and-future grandchildren. That made me think of my old friend, sadly and sorely neglected for many years, but still part and parcel of the household.

He never had a real name, just Teddy Bear. I even found one like him at a flea market once. Only once. The price was $25, which Teddy was flattered to hear when I told him, but alas, that price doesn't do him justice.

I think he's filled with straw. I can hear it crunch. He's been resewn and given new eyes and buttons and had many bows, but he doesn't have one now. I think someone, me!, needs to get busy.

But just to see what a half-century plus of love can do to a stuffed animal, here's the photo of Teddy I have from when I was 9 weeks old. Below it, the man he's become. There's a lesson here I'm sure, about neglect.

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