Saturday, April 29, 2017

a redneck's interpretation of a famous classical piece

Occasionally when I'm scatter-brained I'll tell others that I've lost the jar that holds my marbles and one can only hold so many marbles without a jar.

Mussorgsky's Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks is the music going on inside me as I'm scrambling around looking for my jar.  When I played this for someone and told them this they said "oh that's the hatching song," and I was like, "no no no, that's the one-too-many-marbles-without-a-jar song."

So as it turns out, one person's chick song is another person's marbles song.

I first heard this on a children's album I checked out from the library.  It's my go-to song for moments when you grab your umbrella instead of your tennis racket and don't find out about it until you step onto the court.

This actually happened to a tennis pal, and I can't stop laughing about it.

I hear this song and think, 'Ok, losing the jar that holds your marbles is pretty funny stuff, and apparently it happens to all of us, and look at how pretty it sounds.' 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

music walks

For several years I've seen this gal walking in my neighborhood, and by neighborhood I mean everywhere within the five mile radius that encompasses the places I frequent.  I see her every day, rain or shine, and she's incredibly focused on walking and seems to enjoy it greatly. I'm not sure she knows it, but she's inspirational. So much so that I found myself dreaming about long, aimless walks, and decided to strike out alone.

My dogs like to stroll the neighborhood, but they are 9 & 10 and value brevity. Since last summer, when Ella tore her ACL, our walks have been quite short.  It was tough to take that first step and strike out alone without them.  The first day I walked them around the block, took their leashes off and left them inside it was hard, and I cried for most of that first walk alone.  But it was a good for all of us. They flopped heavily and luxuriously on the cool wood floor and rested, ears raised a little at me leaving, but their faces content.  And though I struggled without them, I took off without any thought of finding resting places or water for them.

I didn't know anything was missing from my very full and happy life until I realized that the reason I enjoy seeing that gal walk everywhere is because that's what I wanted to do.  I, too, needed to take out and walk aimlessly, with only the small goal of putting one foot in front of the other.  

So last fall I began setting aside time for walks, and the tranquility, rumination and joy I reap from them is so enormous it's turned into a passion.

I am passionate about walking.  

I've always been fortunate to have an abundance of energy, so much energy that some of it converts to anxiety.  Since my teens, tennis has been my cure for that, and if I play enough tennis, I have a pretty decent zen attitude about life.  Walking, like tennis, also tackles my anxiety, but unlike tennis, does something entirely different for my psyche.  It gives me time to think and relax, and also to enjoy and be more in touch with my surroundings.

​When I started walking last fall I knew that music was a must, as it fuels me just as much as sleep and food.  Because I enjoy variety, I quickly came up with a  method that works beautifully so I'm not walking the same routes all the time.  My method also gives me a cutoff time so I'm not Forest Gumping it as I like to call it.

When I walk, I put my entire music library on shuffle (I have about 5,000 songs on any given day).  If the track that's currently playing is a cappella, instrumental, comedy, or poetry I turn right at whatever intersection I'm at.  If the track is rap or trap (I'm sure my dad is chuckling because these both rhyme with crap) I make a left. Everything else sends me straight. Occasionally a trap song will play when there's no option to turn left, or a poem, when there is no option to turn right.  This is when ask myself, "am I in the mood to go south or east today?" Though I'm impressed by those who walk and jog in the rain it's really not my cup of tea, so on days when there's a chance of rain I try to stay close to home.  Sometimes these attempts to stay near home are shot to hell, and I almost always get a laugh out of it.

Occasionally one track after another is spoken word or classical music and I end up walking the same 3 blocks for 6 miles.  When this happens I try to notice something different about the same street. This is when poetry happens. This is when I spot insects doing frightful bug things or an entire tea party spilling out of a gnome home at the base of a tree.    

So when do I stop? Because I'm constantly listening to new music I don't always like everything in my library. As soon as I've heard five songs I don't like I start heading home. On the way back I'll usually listen to an audiobook or let my ears take a breather.  I never know where I'm going to end up, whether I'll do 2 miles or 6. Occasionally I get so far away Robert will rescue me on the way home from whatever job he's leaving. 

I love the surprise of it.  I love finding new places and seeing both my neighborhood and the surrounding ones with a different perspective.  I used to think that all the streets and houses looked the same in my suburb, but after walking those streets hundreds of times, I now wholeheartedly disagree with that mindset.  Each house has a family that's made an effort to transform it into a home that reflects who they are.  Every one of those ordinary split levels is unique, sometimes in the tiniest way possible, like a lime green mailbox with purple polka dots.  Or sometimes in the most giant way possible, like the addition of a small porch packed with twinkle lights and rockers with pillows.  My favorite house has a collection of windmills in front.  You can barely see the ordinary house behind the garden of windmills growing in every shape and color, all whirring merrily in the wind.  

When I'm out on one of my music walks as I like to call them, the steps my feet take create the rhythm for mantras that my mind chews on like candy.  Let it go let it go.  hug it out hug it out.  And though I'm blaring the tunes, I'm mulling over my present concerns and worries and finding resolution and peace, and sometimes even surrender.

I rarely see people I know, but I still see that same gal, always deep in thought, walking her miles, and I know we'll likely never say hi. But we're both united by the same excitement we feel when we lace up our sneakers before a walk.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

haunted house? nope, just puppies.

Today, when one of my favorite patrons approached the desk, I put on my just-enjoy-the-ride attitude and braced myself for the exhausting foreign coin routine that I knew had to happen before I could help him.  

Yes, this is the same patron who has thrown coins in the past.

It happens every time I help him and nothing I say deters him.  When he walks up to the desk he always begins the interaction by reaching into one of his pockets and grabbing a handful of coins. 

Then he asks if I want one, and when I say no, he looks around (hopefully to make sure no one is in the way) and throws one into the air.  This is followed by an enthusiastic declaration that whoever finds it can keep it/is lucky/will have a blessed day.  

I make a mental note of where the coin rolls so that I can pick it up later and cheerfully ask him if I can help him find anything.  He always reaches to shake my hand as he tells me what a treasure the library is, and that there are no finer people than those who work at the library.  He then inquires about a particular section or book and happily wanders to wherever I point.  A few times he's asked for hard-to-find sections, and I've attempted to walk him to the stacks, but he always says he can find it on his own.  

This same routine has happened almost weekly for nearly a year, and it rarely ever changes.  He's really quite charming and eccentric and always gracious and positive, though sometimes a little loud in his positivity.  Personality wise, he's a little like a dilapidated Victorian mansion that's rumored to be haunted, but once you open the door you find nothing but puppies.  

Today, he had a list of sections he wanted to look at, so when I told him I would walk through the stacks with him, he was more than happy for the help. On the way to the stacks we passed a group of people, who looked at us curiously (when you have dozens of coins in your pockets you make a fair amount of noise), and quite to my surprise, the gentleman gestured to me and loudly proclaimed, "this is my granddaughter. You can tell because she's got my dashing good looks."  Thankfully I maintained my composure and kept walking. Silence is sometimes the best response.

When we reached the first section on the list, he pulled an ancient voice recorder out of one of his pockets and repeated the call number I gave him. He did this with each section, and every time he recorded a call number, he always played it back. So by the time he played the recorder back at the end of the list it sounded like, "baseball 796.357, WWII 940.53, New Yorker comics 741.5973," and so on.  It made me wonder how often he relied on it, and if it made any sense to him when he played it back.

After helping him, I turned to walk away, and hopefully find the coin that had rolled beneath the copier.  He looked up from the book he was browsing and said, "I hope someone is as kind to you as you were to me today." 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This is old.

A few days ago, Robert surprised me with glass inserts for our top shelves, which means that I can start opening up our keepsakes and decorating a little.

It felt like unpacking pieces of my soul.  I don't give a wazoo how corny that sounds.  Even though it's been two years I could tell what the wrapped pieces were just by their weight and shape.  

As I unwrapped everything I thought, oh here's the glass snail.  Here's my grandma's porcelain flower basket.  

I also found my butterfly tin that my dad gave me. Inside were pictures of my dad that my Aunt Lil gave me.  I'm hoping to start rounding up all my dad's pictures and scan them so I can share them with my brothers.  I can only hope they'll do the same for me with the pictures they have *hint hint*. Finding the pictures was a nice surprise as I often put them in "safe" places that I rarely find again.  

My dad is on the left wearing black socks with brown shoes.  He's going to be displeased that I'm not mentioning what kind of car they're standing on.  

Hopefully this cheers ol' dad up : )

Yep, that's me, making a getaway on an old yellow ambulance.  It's pretty obvious I'm his daughter ; ).

Every treasure I unpacked today has a story!  So many memories!

Robert's mom recently gave him a picture of his two favorite childhood stuffed animals, Blue Bear and Yuckaduck.  To me, it's a little terrifying to look at, but to him, I'm sure the picture is a comfort. And really, once I get past the terrifying stares of two very grimy stuffed animals that are falling apart it's obvious they were loved into that condition. 

I have a few pieces that belonged to my granny, whom I have many memories of, though she passed away when I was just shy of 12.  After she passed away in 1997, my mom and grandpa went to Arizona to settle her estate.  I have a handful of stories from that trip alone. My grandpa, who had cerebral palsy and was wheelchair-bound, was a tough man to shave.  He shook constantly, so it took both my mom and grandma to keep his face still any time they went after it with an electric razor.  While my mom and grandpa were in Arizona, my mom struggled to shave him on her own, until she put her hands just so, and presto, success.  That's when my mom noticed a funny noise coming from grandpa.  With utter horror, and a little bit of humor too, she realized she had her hand clamped over his mouth and nose and was suffocating him.  Naturally, I heard this story many times, my mom doing all the talking and my grandpa sitting there, laughing his gravelly "heh heh heh" as she told it.

Another wild thing that happened on their trip is the amount of toilet paper my great granny left behind.  Closets and closets of it.  It lasted us years and it was all different colors and styles.  And no, I have not kept any of that toilet paper as a keepsake, though some of it was disturbingly pretty.  

While my grandpa and mom were packing up my granny's things something beautiful and amazing happened to them that had nothing to do with shaving or toilet paper.  Before my granny died, she left little notes on everything, usually on the bottom of things and often intriguingly short.  My mom talked reverently about this for years, and though I wasn't there to experience it, I still get goosebumps thinking about how healing it must have been to pack up granny's belongings with notes here and there.  And how it must have felt like she was right there talking with my mom and grandpa.  

When I unpacked one of my granny's pieces today, I sat for a long time holding it, occasionally flipping it over to reread its note still attached after twenty years, the china so thin I'm sure I'll be able to see right through it at some point during my lifetime.

Every time I look at my granny's pieces the funny stories come back and I can hear everyone's laughter and voices just as clear as they were back in 1997.

Each piece I unpacked has a story, sometimes many, and I recognize I should not be so attached to things that could leave my life at any moment.  Heck, two years was much too long.

So I'm taking pictures of everything, writing down the memories that go with each picture and creating yet another journal... That will need to be digitalized. But recollection is such a huge chunk of any experience, and I'd argue that at some point, we spend more time recollecting our experiences than we do living them.  

A few more pieces of my soul's puzzle found their way back to me today, and that silly picture of Blue Bear and Yuckaduck might just be a new piece that's slowly haunting it's way into my happy heart.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter bunny business

Saturday afternoon at work I heard a coworker shout, "going to do some Easter bunny business!" as she rushed out to shop on her lunch break.

Easter bunny business? OMG Easter!  

It's terrible, but I totally forgot the next day was Easter.  After some quiet cussing I hurriedly put together an Easter basket for Rachel on my lunch break.

Turns out, as I was scrambling to put together an Easter basket, Rachel was asking Robert about eggs.

Apparently people dye eggs on Easter.  Duh!

And you know, it's pretty fun to dye eggs.  At first we played it safe, dunking half in one color, the other half in another color.  But towards the end we were taping them, writing on them with wax and dousing them in salt.  Thankfully our house is still standing after some of the crazier things we did to the eggs.  

Thanks to Rachel, we celebrated another delightful holiday we would have normally missed.

And while she was at school today, we ate some of her candy too.  Shhh!

Monday, April 10, 2017

the trees know the story behind the teeth

We've been soaking up all this beautiful spring weather here in Kansas.  Yesterday Robert, Rachel and I hiked a north shore trail at Clinton lake and it was truly peaceful and restorative.  And thanks to the whispering trees, it was delightfully spooky too.

The trees were all happily creaking in the wind, and the mild April air was free of humidity.  For a section of the hike we walked along the rocky shoreline that at times disappeared with the waves. Each time we reached a section of washed-away trail we tried to time the waves and leap around them.  This led to wet feet and lots of shrieking.  

These are my favorite pictures from the day:

The Ohio Buckeyes were fanning their skirts. 

Thanks to the rowdy wind the waves were gloriously loud. 

I found a tree that wasn't completely shrouded in thorns and tucked myself in to listen to the waves.

I'm not sure whose jaw this is or even what kind of animal it came from, but I thoroughly enjoyed examining it before reluctantly leaving it for another's curiosity.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

mysterious polaroids at the Wichita Public Library

Robert, Rachel and I decided to hang out in Wichita for a couple days prior to the awards ceremony.  

Naturally, the Wichita Public Library was at the top of our list.  And it's officially on my all-time-most-very-bestest-favorite libraries list.  

Not only was it a bit musty and dated, the collection was also incredibly eclectic and interesting.  They had VHS mixed in with not only DVDs but also blue ray.  They also had some really unique, early books of poets that were signed.  And a card catalog.  Hanging out like it belonged there. Nearly made me weep.  

The library also had art that was framed and available for checkout.  And though they charge patrons to place items on hold, their Friends Program (which is people who donate to the library) was tiered, and if you paid $25 yearly you didn't have to pay for holds.  The best part of the Friends Program was that those who donated more than $25 a year had a grace period for fines.  
Whoa.  Cool stuff.

I love when public libraries do things differently. And I love when libraries have figured out a way to hold onto their paper/old collections.  I loved leafing through the filing cabinets full of clip art. Sure, I can look up clip art online, but it's so much more fun to dig through physical files.  I even found some curious butter molds at the bottom of one of the filing cabinets at the Wichita Library.  Except I didn't know what they were at first.  But the drawer was labeled!  So I figured it out!  Every library I've been to that still has clip art always has a unique collection.  The best collection was in a little Missouri library - filing cabinet after filing cabinet filled with pictures that patient librarians had clipped from newspapers and magazines and lovingly labeled.  And it was like 50+ years worth of "clipped" art.  

But the best experience at the Wichita Library came when I opened a poetry book and a polaroid fell out.

"WHAAA?!?" you ask.  "No way!"

Yes way!!  The polaroid (a much newer version of it), had a picture of another book and its call/page numbers.  I hustled over to the next book, and flipped through it and even unfolded the map (it was a travel book), but no luck.  Sadly, I put it back and that's when I noticed that another copy had fallen behind the shelf.  And the next polaroid was on the page that the last polaroid told me to look. WHOA.  So I found Rachel and Robert for the next journey.  We excitedly found the book, which was a "history of the library" book, and that's where the journey ended.  BUT HOW COOL IS THIS?  

If you are thinking that the Wichita librarians are part of the polaroid shenanigans you are mistaken. They are unflappable, "too busy"  and barely registered any amusement by our discovery.  

But think about it.  If I went from poetry to travel to the history of the library that means that somewhere in the 100s, 200s, 300s, 400s, 500s, 600s and 700s there are more polaroids to find. We had only so much time and so many quarters for the parking meter, so we eventually abandoned our search in the hopes that another library lover will find the missing polaroids.  

Will it be you?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Robert wins the Elmer "Carp" Carpenter Award

Last night, Robert was presented with the Elmer "Carp" Carpenter Award!

From left: our wonderful friend, Lane, who gave a beautiful speech (email me if you are interested in hearing it), Robert holding his plaque, the always-fantastic Debbie, who also nominated Robert, and Art, who Robert affectionally calls the Godfather of KIAAA and NIAAA.  

And here is Rachel, me, Robert, Lane and Art at the dinner before the awards ceremony.  

It made me exceptionally happy to see just how much Robert is respected and appreciated.  And really, it was very touching to see so many people recognized for their outstanding efforts in the world of high school athletics.  It certainly takes a lot of people to make athletics happen, and not only that, a lot of dedication, humor and teamwork.  It was a very inspirational evening. 

Congratulations Robert!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

ready for some of that inner & outer beauty

My March favorites are all about self improvement, though I didn't plan it that way.  I read a handful of decent books with narrative, but the books that made me the happiest were these:

Anatomy, Stretching and Training for Yoga by Amy Auman and Lisa Purcell

Because of this book I now know about the side crow pose, which sadly, hasn't come up in my 10+ years of exploring yoga classes, videos and books. But rather humorously, this is perfect timing, because I’m just now getting the hang of the regular crow pose. This book also has super easy instructions and two different pictures of each pose (one anatomy, one real-life person). My favorite part, however, is the side panel for each pose, listing both benefits and cautions. There are days when I have small injuries or minor aches and pains from the sports I play and it’s nice to know what yoga poses to stay away from on those days. And in the back of the book are a handful of routines that are easy to modify based on whether the ol' knees can take it that day or not.

There Is No Right Way to Meditate by Yumi Sakugawa

I can’t get enough of the lessons and illustrations in this book! There’s no doubt in my mind I will copy and enlarge at least one page to hang somewhere in my office. This book clicked with me on multiple levels. Many of Sakugawa's lessons breathed fresh air into stale and wordy concepts with simple language and clever, poignant illustrations. For example, “breathe out your bad mood and watch it disappear into the sky.” And thanks to her fitting portrayal of negativity through the use of dark and chaotic illustrations I can visualize the grievances I breathe out. Other lessons gave me words and pictures for unnamed meditation already happening in my life. For example, when I read about taking a walk in the woods so my bad mood doesn’t find me, I thought, ‘Yes! That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for years without realizing it.’ Sakugawa's depiction of Eckhart Tolle's pain-body concept is eerily similar to how I’ve always pictured it, and it definitely makes me want to kick its butt even harder (which actually translates to ignoring it harder) after seeing it come to life in her powerful interpretation of it. Thanks to Sakugawa I am eager (but in a centered, quiet way) to continue my meditation journey. 

100 Perfect Hair Days by Jenny Strebe

Though the illustrated step-by-step guide isn't great, this book has two other awesome things going for it that more than outweigh the unhelpful illustrated pictures. Not only is the name of the hairstyle provided for easy lookup on YouTube; also listed are variations for many of the hairstyles and the hair type that the style works best on.