Monday, March 27, 2006

Contrary Motion

It suddenly occurred to me few minutes ago that I might be in a fugue state...I don't really know why I thought that, it's just that I feel so very odd and disconcerted lately, and that term just popped into my head. So I decided, YES!, that must be what's going on with me.

But when I googled "fugue state," the definition was a "sudden traveling away from familiar surroundings in an amnesiac episode." Well, that really isn't me at all right now. My surroundings are all too famliar, and my memory is actually pretty good, considering all the stuff that's roiling around in my head. (I remembered earlier today that it was Chris and Cathy King's birthday - they were twins who were my lab partners in seventh grade science class. So, in some respects my memory is working very well.)

So, if not in a state of fugue, what is going on with me these days?

In thinking about it, I believe it was the musical concept of fugue that felt appropriate to my state of mind...the idea of a theme that keeps repeating itself, but entering and exiting at different times. I even have some variations of the theme going on as well, which helps to keep things even more interesting (how proud Bach would have been!)

Here's how it all plays out in practical terms.

1. The professional woman theme: That's the one that goes into her office, turns on her computer, reviews and documents a huge pile of medical records, creates a summary of medical activites related to patients with all kinds of mental and physical disorders, sends a bill and report to the appropriate people at the appropriate times, assigns and schedules work hours, and handles employee disputes.

2. The "artiste" theme: Here's the musician/writer who sits at the piano for a three hour rehearsal, takes a quick dinner break during which she drafts a letter soliciting funds for a scholarship in memory of a former student who recently committed suicide, and then heads over to a local church hosting a group of homeless people to provide an hour of musical entertainment;

3. The wife/mother/daughter theme: This is the variation that creates a meal, takes the two dogs to the groomer, stops at the grocery to pick up a carton of eggs for her mother, and pays some bills online at 11:00 p.m.

Somehow, these themes become integrated into a day in the life of a whole person - ME. See, I did all the things listed above at various times TODAY. And although part of my mind says, God, you are too old to do all this crap, another part of it is saying, God, you are amazing that you can do all this crap! So, do I want it to end? No. Do I want to have scads of free time to go out to lunch and go shopping, and clean the grout in my bathroom with a toothbrush? GOD, no.

I like being a fugue, one of the most complicated and difficult musical forms to master. It takes hours and hours for me to hack my way through one on the keyboard. But, hell, I can damn sure live one every day.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


You would probably call me an incredibly lucky person, and deep in my heart I know that's true. After all, I was just able to escape the midwester midwinter doldrums, and spend five days at my house in Naples, Florida. No matter that I spent a lot of time sitting at my computer, struggling with a couple of very lengthy reports from my office job. At least that computer was parked on the glass topped lanai table, with the warm southern Florida breeze rustling my hair (and my papers). Also got to spend some time catching up with my son and daughter in law, admiring the way they've crafted such a nice life for themselves at such a young age. The boy's got it "goin' on" as they say, and frankly, I'm sometimes envious. But that's fodder for another post...

The real thing I want to talk about is how whenever I'm there, I am both dreading and wishing to come back here. Dreading, because, let's face it, my house here is old and outdated and grungy with age, while my house there is new, posh, and clean. My neighborhood here pretty much matches my house, and suffice it to say, my life here just trails right along in those same decrepit lines. However, this life here seems to still call out home to me. This old house and neighborhood has sheltered me from my first days as a young wife and mother, through raising my child and watching him fly far from here into his own life. My friends are all here, the things I do that enrich my life are here - in other words, everything that is real resides in this weatherbeaten, slightly run down place. In Naples, life is almost too good to be true. As beautiful as that is for a while, it leaves something to be desired, somthing gritty and unpolished, something that you can work to clean up and rejuvenate. Something that makes life worth a little more in the end.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

They Call it Progress

There are some days when I feel as if life is just too hard.

It's the accumulation of little things, mostly, like the fact that I just ordered a roll of 100 stamps and they were 37 cent stamps instead of 39 cent stamps, so I had to buy 100 2 cent stamps in order to make them work. Why is the post office still selling 13 designs of 37 cent stamps and only one design of 39 cent stamps?

Why do I have to go to six drugstores (and thank God there is at least one on every corner) before I can find my contact lens solution? And why do I have to go to Farmer Jack in order to get the brand of chicken I like, Kroger's for pork chops and milk, Your Better Market for the Hamilton Brand all natural brown eggs, and Westborn Fruit Market for decent romaine lettuce?

Why is it that our prescription drug insurance now charges us double what it used to charge us, so that every time I get bronchitis or a sinus infection, it costs me $100 for two prescriptions for 10 days? And, I have to pay more each month just for the privelege of having this insurance in the first place?

Why is it that it cost almost $300 to keep my house sort of warm last month, and that my elderly mother is now waking up feeling cold in the middle of the night because she had to "dial down" in order to save money?

Sigh. All these things, and many more, make life in the 21st century seem awfully hard. Physically, I know there's no comparison with life in the 18th or 19th or even parts of the 20th century. We still have hot and cold running water at the touch of a faucet, warm (or cold) air pulsing through our houses, offices, and cars at the push of a button, any kind of electronic or printed entertainment we could ask for at our immediate disposal. Why is it that it sometimes all seems so hard?

I guess the hardships of every generation are relative. Because we have so much more in the first place, there is so much more asked of us. Our resources become stretched to the limit, and we must pay the price literally and figuratively.

There is something in me that so often longs for a simplicity of life that I fear has gone forever. The small town, with the corner store and the bank/post office/police station combined in one. The neighborhood cafe where the regulars favorites are well known to the gum chewing, white haired waitress, whose husband is the lovable grouch at the grill. The town doc, who has delivered at least two generations of babies, and ushered one of those generations to the shaded cemetary on the hill. Am I dreaming? Did such a life every exist in America?

I was born in the 50's, and have often felt as if I were at least a generation too late. Now, as I stand on the threshold of old (er) age, I look forward with trepidation to the decades ahead. Can we survive if we keep escalating this pace of "progress"? Perhaps it would behoove us all to step on the brakes, and look backward for a moment, to see what lessons of life the past has to teach us.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Life is Good

Posted by Picasa Life is good...Me, Magic, Molly Mei at the lake

I only wish this photo had been taken today...I'm simply dreaming, 'cause it's March in Michigan, and we're nowhere near the lake just yet.
But I know it won't be long now. I saw robins in my yard this afternoon, pecking merrily at the grass, hoping to find a young worm or grub, or some other avian delicacy. I wish them luck with that, and hope they stay warm and dry. As for me, I'm going out on a limb and hauling my winter coat to the cleaners. From now on I'll make do with my coral colored 3/4 length raincoat, even if I have to pile sweaters under it for warmth should the winter god rear his ugly head once more.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Downhill From Here

Today started out really well. I was on my way to an early musical rehearsal and actually had enough time to stop at 7-11 for a cup of their Kona coffee, which has become my new favorite blend in the last month. (I know, it's only 7-11, but hey, it's really good!) To my delight, my lovely little coffee punch card was full, so not only was it steaming hot and delightfully fresh, it was FREE!

Lo and behold, I still had enough time to whisk through the car wash on the corner and scrub that last leftover salt off my poor black car. Wonder of wonders, my car wash punch card was also full, and that too was FREE!

Now, I usually don't get all excited about feebies like that, but even I have to think two in a row must be a good omen. However, not to be. As soon as I got to school, things began to go seriously awry. My friend Pat tossed her bag on the desk with a big sigh, rolled her eyes at me, and said, "I am so down today." Well, Pat is the eternal optimist - she's the kind of teacher who can find the best in even the hardest hearted child, the rainbow at the end of every storm, the silver lining in every cloud. When she actually says she's down, I begin to look for shelter from lightning bolts.

Seems her mood on this sunny Saturday morning was related to some rather disparaging comments from our judges at choral competition the previous date, comments the like of which she had never received in her 20 years of choral teaching. Added to it was that one of her favorite students had performed poorly on her college auditon, a friend whose son had recently commited suicide had left six very urgent messages for her during the past 24 hours, and her driver's license was suspended because she neglected to pay the late fee on her traffic ticket. I guess I really can't blame her for being depressed.

Rehearsal didn't go as planned for either of us, and I ended up hacking my way through some dance numbers that I wasn't at all prepared to play. I always hate playing for dances anyway, since I can't see or hear what they're doing and always feel this awful sense of disconnect.

I was grateful to be heading out the door, when the cheeful chirp of my mobile phone tells me Jim is calling. "Hey honey," he said. "Would you mind running over to mom's place? They just called me and said she can't find her purse and is really upset."

Marvelous. A demented (and that's a medical diagnosis, not my assessment of her personality) old lady who has lost her purse. With heavy heart, I drive across the road to the assisted living facility where's my mother in law now lives. Of course, she couldn't remember where she had been two seconds before I got there, so the chances of her recalling where she had left the battered old brown purse she carried incessantly were slim and none.

After about two hours of looking, talking to other old ladies (demented and otherwise) and one old man who always hits on me every time I go in there (at least I still appeal to the geriatric set), I decided I might as well go home.

During the drive home, I worked very hard to psyche myself back into the optimistic mood I had enjoyed during my earlier commute. It seemed to me that my days so often deteriorated just like this, and I was finding it harder and harder to justify remaining upbeat. After all, if even Pat could be depressed, how much more difficult for me, prone as I am to moroseness.

I think it was the sunshine that did it - that and the exuberant greeting my puppies gave me when I walked through the door. Sunshine in March - how can you fail to find hope in that? As I buckled on collars and leashes to enjoy a walk in the park, I was certain I caught the scent of hyacinth somewhere in bloom. So I managed a smile and a spring in my step as we set off into the almost warm air.

No matter that within five minutes Magic found a lovely burr patch and managed to get at least a dozen of the prickly things caught in his paws.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Smellin' the Roses

Today was one of those days when my hectic life came to a dead stop- no running to Target or to the grocery store, no stopping for a cafe mocha (minus the whipped cream), no running into the office to finish off one last report or pick up work for next week, no taking the dogs to the vet or even the park. All because I had to stay home and wait for a delivery. A flower delivery, no less. Today I was living the adage about stopping to smell the roses - or at least I was waiting to smell them as soon as they arrived.

You see, yesterday was my birthday. And it's typcial of my life right now that I had so many places to be yesterday that I couldn't even be home long enough to get the fabulously large and extravagant bouquet of red roses my favorite aunt and uncle always send me on my birthday. I had to call the florist this morning and beg them to deliver them today.

"I'm so sorry we missed you yesterday," the lovely lady at Kristi's flowers told me cheerily. "We'll be happy to bring them by this afternoon!"

So, I happily started pottering around the house, clearing up some of the detritius that has accululated over the past couple of weeks when I've been consumed with a large writing project at my office job, a weekend handbell festival in Ohio, and rehearsals at the high school for choral competition and muscial. Not to mention a sick dog the other night that required a late night run in the pouring rain to the nearest veterinary emergency room (he's fine now, thank you)! There were grungy socks and jeans to launder, some mysterious sticky substance to scrub off the kitchen floor, scattered piles of mail from which the multitude of credit card offers and catalogs must be sifted, and bills with due dates absolutely screaming "time is running out!"

I found myself taking great pleasure in chugging my way through these homely little tasks. It helped immensely that today was one of those teasing March days when the sun comes out, the wind blows briskly but not menacingly, and you can be pretty comfortable outside in a turtleneck and polar fleece hoodie. The doggies took advantage of the rugs I was airing on the back porch, and basked lazily and comfortably in the sun. I even cracked open a few windows to let some of that marvelous fresh air whisk through the house, dispersing the staleness of winter with a brisk coolness.

It was nearly 5:00 when the roses finally arrived. I was relaxing happily in my favorite chair, cushions newly turned and plumped, a chilled glass of wine at my side. I had cleared a spot for them on my cedar chest, dusted and polished it's surface to a fare thee well, and was looking forward to the richness their scent would add to my freshly cleaned house.

"So, you are home!" said the lovely delivery lady, whom I could barely see behind the huge bounty of the vase and opulent red shimmery bow tied around it's neck.

"I am indeed!" I answered proudly, taking her burden of beauty from her.

Such a gift those roses were today.