Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Love My Computer!

We bought our first computer 16 years ago and have never looked back.  I will admit, however, it has been a struggle at times to keep up.
I was ready to step into the techno age but I waited until my best friend, Sue Lange, stepped in first.  I remember saying to her, "You go ahead and then you can teach me."  If you read my earlier post about my house - the part where Sue taught me how to hang paper - you can imagine what the Intro to Computer was like.  We made it, though.
The catalyst was the fact that our son was going to study in England and we knew using the telephone was going to be costly so we thought this new thing called email would be perfect.  And it was.
Next came glass bead making for me and the internet opened up a whole new world and introduced me to a ton of wonderful bead makers.  Most of them I've never met face to face but they have become such good friends - willing to share ideas and techniques.
Then came Skype.  Do you know it?  Do you have it?  I'll tell ya - it's the best thing since Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  It has really taken the edge off missing our son who seems to insist on living in foreign lands.
Also, when we travel, I stay in touch with other family members.
One of the coolest things that I've ever done with Skype was taking it with me to visit a friend who was in a physical rehab joint.  She'd suffered a terrible brain injury and wasn't talking a whole lot but when I brought my mom up (they'd known each other for many years) on the screen my friend's eyes lit up and she said, "Nan" with a big smile on her face.  My mom, who was equally excited, (I kept this call a secret) did her usual exuberant waving, laughing thing and by then I was crying.  It was a moment I'll never forget.
I think all facilities of that nature, particularly skilled nursing facilities, should have Skype available to residents.  Just think of the great grandmother who will never get to see the newest baby in the family face to face but could see and hear her via Skype.
I love this modern age.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Care for a drink? Or two or six?

This is in no way to be construed as a lecture but if you'll remember I told you I had a lot to say and we might as well get the "booze" out of the way.  After all, I've already tackled religion so what the hey.
I don't drink and haven't for many, many years.  I don't care if you drink, though. 
I don't have an issue with booze and neither does my husband - he's a teetotaler, too. Boy, didn't you think that had an "a" in it?  Tea - totaler?  Someone who only drinks tea?  That's not what my spell check said, tho', and I totally trust it so . . .
Oops, digressing again.
My husband has a lot of allergies and alcohol used to make his ears turn red and stuff up his nose so he "stepped away from the bar."  Not that he visited it anyway but you get my meaning.
I did all my drinking as a teen - 16 to 19.  I smoked then too.
I realized some time ago that when I did have an occasional drink, it made me feel like shit the next day.  If I'm going to spend time on the couch, I want to have a book in my hand or be watching a rerun of Law and Order. It just didn't make sense and stuff has to make sense to me.
I also feel that if I wanted something to drink that tasted good, there are plenty o' bevs to choose from that don't have alcohol in them.  Like Diet Vernor's.
Also, I've never needed a "belt" to help me relax in social settings.  No shrinking violet here.
Here comes the part that might  sound judgmental but, honestly, I don't mean it that way.  I'll give you your 20s to do the stupid stuff - maybe into your 30s - but if you're still getting shit-faced after that - so much so that you embarrass yourself and everyone else around you and don't remember a damn thing the next morning - you need to think about putting the bottle down.  Just sayin'
I have no tolerance for people who have had too much to drink and try to engage me in fascinating conversation.  While you're blabbing on and on (and possibly spitting into my face), don't be surprised after you come out of one of your really slow blinks when I'm NOT THERE anymore.  I chose that moment to get the hell out of the corner you backed me into.
Too harsh?  Too bad.  Now, where's that bottle of Diet Vernor's?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feel Like Workin' Out?

I'm sitting here getting ready (mentally) for the Saturday morning Jazzercise session.  Or as my old buddy, JP Powell, used to call it, "Jazz My Thighs."  I've been a regular at Jazzercise here in Allegan for 21 years and to be perfectly honest with you - it has changed my life.
I'll never forget, all those years ago, when my best friend, Sue Lange, and I decided we needed to take desperate measures to lose some lbs and get in shape.
When the topic of Jazzercise came up we did the "I will if you will thing" and off we went - plus we were checking in at Weight Watchers on a weekly basis.
This was back in the spandex days.  We didn't go all Olivia Newton-John but we did suit up appropriately.  I remember one particular routine where we were on our backs with our legs up in the air for, what felt like, 22 hours.  Someone behind me remarked breathlessly, "Oh - my - god.  My legs weren't up in the air this long when I gave birth!!!"
Sue's life was much more complicated than mine so she had to drop out but I've been hanging in there - like I said, for 21 years.  With the same instructor!  Brenda Pearson is amazing.  She's always up and positive and extremely encouraging.  We've speculated that she must be on drugs.  haha.  No, just kidding but she is unstoppable.
Besides being a fantastic work-out and never, ever boring - the camaraderie is life-sustaining.  I have met such wonderful women (and a few men along the way).  We've been through everything together.  Weddings, funerals, births and divorces.  We laugh, cry and sing together.  Oh, yeah, and sweat like stevedores. 
If you live around here, come check us out.  First time is free.  If you live elsewhere (why would you?, haha), go online and find a class.  It'll change your life.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Got religion?

I recently turned 63 years old.  Yikes!  With that goal being reached (not really but what is there to say about being 63, really?) and in light of Obama's nod to atheists in his inauguration  speech, I have some things to say.
First of all, it's too bad the word "atheist" carries such a negative load.  My husband isn't crazy about me using it (he's still hanging on to Christianity which is fine by me) because it seems to freak people out.  Sometimes I describe myself as "not religious."
I grew up in a wonderful church - Sunday school, choir - the whole enchilada.  I have nothing but the warmest memories of those times but I never really felt like I fit in.  I've had many discussions with some of my gay friends and we compared similar feelings.  I bowed my head with everyone else, I sang the hymns while standing in the alto section, I got married by a clergyman but never felt what other people described as "their love of god."
Does that make me a bad person?  An uncaring person?  I don't think so.  I think I'm a damn fine person.  
A friend once used the "there are no atheists in foxholes" on me.  Well, I've been in a foxhole or two, including breast cancer, and didn't fall to my knees.  You know who I depend on?  Myself first, family and friends and then the experts in whatever field I need an answer in.
Another friend said he thought I sounded angry when I talked about religion.   No, I think religions are interesting.  It's the people trying to shove it down my throat that bug me.  Assuming everyone is a christian - that's annoying.  Prayer at public school graduations, the Madonna and child on a postage stamp and the ever-present, "so help you god" when I'm sworn in as an interpreter in the courtroom. Those are the things about religion that get under my skin.
I'm glad I had a religious upbringing.  It gave me the opportunity to make an informed decision about my life.  I love my life and look forward to whatever time I have left helping people who need support during their time of grief (I'm a hospice volunteer), other women who want to chat with another breast cancer "thriver" and making grants to non-profit organizations as a trustee for a family foundation.
I am an atheist.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who Turned Me On to Sign Language?

Back in the early '70s my husband and I were living in St.Petersburg, FL.  He was stationed there with the Coast Guard.  I met two local women who were dating Coasties at the time and one of them, Susie, was deaf.  I didn't realize it at first because her speaking voice was so good.
We became fast friends and since she had spent a year at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC (liberal arts college for the Deaf), she knew Sign Language.  I was fascinated and so the teaching began.
I never knew I could actually do anything with the language but I never lost interest even after we left Florida and moved back to Pennsylvania and then to Michigan.
I worked in a hospital and several doctors offices and moved to Allegan where I worked in my father's medical office until he retired in 1985.  Still interested.
And then I took a class (community ed. in Holland) and was really hooked.  I started looking for Deaf Ed. classes I could volunteer in and my language base grew.
I never enrolled in an Interpreter Training Program because the nearest one was in Lansing - Lansing Community College - and it's an excellent program run by my pal, Brenda Cartwright, but too far to commute.
Fortunately the state of MI was putting on workshops for educational interpreters and I started attending those - that's where I met Brenda who became my tutor for a while and helped me pass my first state test.  Thanks, BC!
I went on to work for Kalamazoo Community College, Western Michigan University, Loy Norrix High School, Saugatuck High School and Allegan Public Schools.
I retired from public ed .interpreting in 2006 and now work for two freelance agencies that send me out on jobs - when I want to go.  Ahhhh, the beauty of freelance - love it.
Back to, Susie.  She died a few years ago and I miss her every single day.  But I think of her often and thank her every time I raise my hands up in the air to aide in communication.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Do You Have Daily Routines?

Do you do things in a specific order in the morning?  What happens if something interrupts your routine?
I have several steps in my morning that have to happen in order or all hell breaks out when I get diverted.  For example - I have to apply deodorant to a naked body (sorry if that's too much info - hope you don't have nightmares) before anything else.  Before I step into the undies, before socks, etc.  You get the picture.  If the phone rings or the dog has to go out then I find myself, later, driving to a job or the grocery store when it dawns on me that my pits are unprotected.  Eeeek!
Or how about brushing your teeth.  Do you start in the same area at each brushing?  Lower right working slowly toward the lower left?  Upper right - same story?  If my mind wanders during this routine, I have to start all over again.
Ever put hair gel on your face instead of moisturizer?  You have?  What the hell is wrong with you?  Even I've never done that.  Ok, my hand has gone half way up to my face a few times - but never actually touched it.
There is a sub group of misdirections that, I think, only happens to older folks or very busy women.  I know which group I really fall into but I'd prefer to try and pull the wool over your eyes and convince you it happens to me because I'm just so darned busy. 
It's the "I need to go into the living room and rotate the couch cushions (yeah, like I really do that), oh, there's the fan from last summer near the TV, I guess I'll put that upstairs, wait, is that the afghan from the den on the recliner?  Better relocate that.  What are my Jazzercise sneakers doing under the desk?  They belong on the back porch so I won't forget to put them on tonight.  Now what did I come in here for?"
Ever happen to you?  No?  Liar, liar pants on fire.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I love the Blues.

I love, love, love the Blues.  Back in the 60s it was all Motown, all the time.  I guess I must have liked disco in the 70s.  Not at all sure what I listed to in the 80s and 90s - probably still hanging onto Motown.
And then came the Blues.  It all started with Delbert McClinton.  I saw him on TV but missed his name so I ended up calling the program to find out who he was.  Yup, I did.  Went right to the source.  Then I had to track down a tape.  Yes, a tape.  This was a while back.  My first stop was downtown to my pal, Mitch Wooster's, shop.  I asked him if he'd ever heard of Delbert McClinton and, of course, he had and so started ordering.  Love me some, Delbert.  BTW, Mitch does some of his tunes and tears 'em up.
I'm really keen on Bonnie Raitt too but I can't always sing along with her stuff - she has the audacity to go up and clean out of my range - often.
A guy I used to work with brought me a CD one day because we'd been talking about female Blues singers and how Bonnie was really the only one I was familiar with.  He handed me the music and said, "You need to listen to this woman."
That's when EG Kight came into my life and (I'm not embarrassed to say this even though it makes me sound quite off) my heart.
She's known as the Georgia Songbird - from Dublin, Georgia.  She writes her own music - her lyrics kill me.  She plays a helluva guitar and her voice - her voice does it for me.  Did I mention we sing in the same key?  That, my friends, is the icing on the cake.  I can get in the car and crank EG up to the ear bleeding level and sing until my head explodes.  Ok, that might be slightly over the top but you understand where I'm comin' from, right?
I have 7 of her CDs and I've played them so much that as one song finishes I can start singing  the next one before she does.
I've had the privilege of seeing EG live twice.  Even got to give her some of my beads and chat.  I was over the moon. I've also been lucky enough to sing 3 of her songs with my buddy, Kevin McDaniel.  I bullied him until he finally gave in.  Thanks, Kev.
Do yourself a favor and check her out.  I can't believe you won't fall in love just like I did - at first listen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I Sing in a Trio

I started singing in a trio many, many years ago.  Mary Spreitzer Brower and Alva Morgan were my side kicks back then.  We did some really sweet, tight, three part harmony with Phil Siegler on the piano.  Now there was a man with tremendous patience.  Mary and Alva were naturals but I needed a lot of help finding my part (I'm an alto) and Phil would tirelessly pound it out for me.  We sang together for a good long time and then Mary had to pull out because of allergies.
Nothing happened for a few years and then my friend, Sue Buese, mentioned a song from Smokey Joe's Cafe that she thought would be great for us.  We performed "I'm a Woman" for Cabaret that year and got a standing O every night.  Singing with the band was a blast for many years after that (although I missed Phil terribly) and our performances were pretty much limited to Cabaret which was fine with all of us.
Our last Cabaret performance was in 2007.  Sue and I have become "snow birds" and are gone for the month of March (gotta work on the tan, ya know) so no more Cabaret.  Alva's still having fun there, tho'.
Then a few years ago a new group was formed known as SASS.  I'll explain the name in a minute.  The group was new only in that we had a keyboard player - finally.  Same old dames at the mic, new person on the keys.
Marty Hesse helps us out when we have a gig now and then.
When we were trying to figure out names for our "new group", several were tossed around and we finally settled on Sue's suggestion of SASS.  We're too old to be referred to as sassy and we thought SASS (always all caps) sounded mature, with plenty o' attitude.  Say it out loud and draw out the esses.  See?  Mature, bold with a kick.  Am I right?

This is SASS singing at the summer concert series at the Gazebo on the riverfront.  I believe we're doing "Kansas City" - cuz why else would we be wearing those stupids hats?
Also, see how we're using music stands?  Didn't have to in the old days.  We memorized a ton of lyrics. hmmmm, wonder what caused this need for lyrics IN LARGE FONT?
I have a tough time with lyrics and IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY AGE I'm sorry to say.  I've been screwing up lyrics since forever.  One time I stole Sue's entire verse from the very song we're singing in this picture.  While I was singing it and wondering what the hell had come over me, I was also wondering what the hell Sue was going to do when her turn came up?  She's a trooper and just sang her verse again.
Just this past summer at the gazebo we were closing the show up with our signature song, "I'm a Woman" and I screwed up my verse.  Been singing that song for many years now and I screw up my verse! - and swore into the mic.  I didn't drop the F-bomb, thankfully.  Only said "damn it" but apparently a little girl in the audience put her had to her face which had raised eyebrows and a big "O" on it.    I got to start my verse over again so all was not lost.
So, now you know all about SASS.  We hope to sing at the Gazebo again this summer (I'll try not to swear - unless you're into that kinda thing) and will definitely be singing at the Second Sunday Benefit music series at the Presbyterian Church in July.
Come on down.  It's always an adventure.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Old House

This is my house and it is an old one.  It was built in 1836.  Its original site was downtown and was moved by oxen in 1864 to this location.  There are two or three other houses in town that were built in the same year but nothing older.

We had been living out east when we came home for a visit in 1978 - and bought a house!  I'll never forget my best friend, Sue Lange, telling me there was a sale going on at an old house downtown - we should go take a look.

The place had been vacant for five years and nothing had been done to it in god-knows how many years before that.  Sue walked through the house extolling its virtues.  She had the "eye."  I didn't and saw no virtues.

And so began the process of making this old girl our own.  Stripping off layers upon layers of wall paper, replacing the kitchen sink from an era long gone by, removing the old oil burning furnace and putting in a new gas one and insulating the joint.

 That was when I learned to hang wallpaper.  Sue, again, was the expert so she decided we should start with the kitchen!  It was like an episode out of a sitcom: "Lucy and Ethel hang paper."  And it was the paper that you schmeared paste on.  I had it in my hair, up my nose and on my shoes.

It's been a great house all these years in a perfect location for us.  I hope it doesn't hear me say this but I really want to live in a ranch home with an attached garage, a functional basement with two bathrooms before I die.  I'm not holding my breath on that one, though, and if it doesn't happen . . . ah, well.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A reality TV confession

Do you know people who appear to revel in announcing (with a haughty tone in their voice ) that they "never watch TV"? (I can never remember if the quote comes before the question mark or vice versa).  I do.  It always makes me laugh because then if the conversation continues and I mention a show or two that I enjoy it seems they've actually seen that one.  Yeah, right, you don't watch TV.  Who are you kidding - I'm on to you.
My friend, Sue Buese, is the only other person I know (besides myself) that proudly announces she's a fan of the television.  Yea, us.  No pride.
Most of my favorites are about crime and murder:  all of the CSIs, all of the Law and Orders, Criminal Minds (although I have to admit that last one is getting just a bit too icky for me).
I do not watch Glee.  I tried, couldn't do it.  I need blood on the floor and a car chase or two.
Anyway - back to the topic of this blog entry.  I think the first reality show that caught my attention was the one on MTV where all those young people lived in the same house for a while.  The name escapes me right now; I haven't seen it in several years.  I must have outgrown it, eh?
Then came Survivor.  That one got me hook, line and sinker.  Didn't miss an episode for a long, long time.  Talked about the people on it with other addicts like we knew them.  The last couple of seasons have been spotty, though.  It's slowly losing its appeal.
Next came The Amazing Race.  Love that one.  I was still working when it debuted @ 9p on Sunday nights.  I'd get so revved up watching it that I couldn't fall asleep at what was my bedtime back then - 10p.  Now I'm a big girl and can stay up until 11p - sometimes.  They've moved it back to 8p so I don't really have to test that theory.  Whew.
Alert.  Here comes my haughty tone:  I have never watched The Bachelor.  Ick.  Or its counterpart.
Alert.  Here comes the confession:  I love the "ink" shows.  Tattoo parlors around the country and all the drama that goes along with putting color on skin.
Last week I was sick and spent a fair amount of time on the couch and I was taken over by Philadelphia Parking Authority. 3 teams are featured:  parking ticket people, "boot" people and towing dudes.  There was a marathon going on and I honesty don't know how many episodes I watched.
The last one was Hoarders.  I watched 2 or 3 of those until I felt like I needed a shower.
So - do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to reality TV?  Let's stick to that category, ok?  I don't need to know about your other guilty pleasures.  I'm pretty sure I don't (haughty tone).  Oh, what the heck - bring 'em on!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ever Have to "Eat Your Words?"

Remember Granny Glasses?  Wire rims?  If I go back in time and try to catalog my life eating my words chronologically, that's the first one that comes to mind.  "Who the hell would ever wear those things?  They make you look like an old woman."  Hence the name.  I probably held out for a year or so but then I was sportin' a pair myself.  Feeling all John Lennon-like . . . cuz he wasn't a granny, right? So it was ok then.
Speaking of John Lennon.  I remember like it was yesterday dancing with a guy (I'm sure he was drop-dead handsome although I can't recall exactly who it was) at The Note to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and saying something very regrettable like "I don't think this song is going to go anywhere."  Can I call 'em or what?
Next came crop pants.  I know I'm skipping decades but the 80s and 90s are like a big black hole for some reason.  Anyhoo - crops pants.  Hello, they hit you at a very unflattering part of your leg!  And - can you say "clam diggers?"  or "peddle pushers?"  I wore those things when I was 9 years old for cryin' out loud.  Yeah, I was going through clothes for Florida they other day and I counted around 11 pair.  Love 'em! Like my friend, Kathi, says, "Ellen, crop pants are our friends."
Lastly, although I'm sure there are many, many more instances of eating my words because I haven't even addressed "foot in mouth" examples, are Crocs.  People, do you realize that you're wearing clown shoes?????
I could not imagine putting those rubber things on my feet - until I did.  I will not tell you how many pairs I have in my closet right now.  Let's just say that I quickly turned into a "Croc Whore."  'nuf said.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our rescue dog, Augie

This is Augie Leotta Altamore.  He's named after my husband's favorite uncle.  We adopted him almost 3 years ago.  He was 3-ish at the time.  We hadn't had a dog for many, many years (and I wasn't planning on any more pets but . . . ) so it's been a bit of an adjustment - and a huge learning experience - but worth it in the end.

Pet Resource Network out of Otsego told us he was a Schnauzer.  Well, that was partly true but there's obviously more to him - probably a touch of poodle.
I'm not a number cruncher but if I was I'd probably have heart failure when the total spent so far on this little guy showed up on the calculator. 

The first dog we had many years ago lived to be 17.  Our cat lived to be 17 and we have easily spent way over what was spent on both of those pets combined - and multiplied by . . . . I can't even guess.
Because Augie was used as breeding stock in an Amish puppy mill he had some, well, let's call them "behavior issues."  He bit a friend who is MARRIED TO A LAWYER!!!!  We immediately hired a trainer who came to the house and what followed was a long, long (filled with many hours) period of intensive modification.  $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

He's come a long way but like our trainer said, "Augie may never be the world's dog."  That's ok.  I wish it wasn't so but that's life, eh?  He's great with other dogs but needs to get to know you before there's any petting happening. Our standard line to people has become "ignore him, let him sniff you (if you're ok with that), put your hand down so he can check it out but no petting yet."  Or if we're on a walk while he's on his leash we just go into the "Stop, in the Name of Love" stance.

He's been a lot of fun, is very loving and playful and all about being a "lap" dog.  So I guess we'll keep him.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stephens College

I was a "Stephens Susie."  Stephens is an all girls college in Columbia, MO.  I don't really feel worthy of the title "Susie" since I only lasted one year and it wasn't a stellar year.
How'd I get there?  Well when it came time to think about college I realized I wasn't really interested in anything.  Back in the dark ages, women were either teachers, secretaries or nurses.  None of those careers appealed to me.  I only applied to two colleges - Central MI University and Stephens. 
If I'm remembering correctly (and I've already made it clear that my memory isn't very sharp), CMU declined my offer to attend.  I know!  Can you believe it?  Did I mention I didn't exactly shine when it came to grades in high school?  No?  Well, let's just say I was never a candidate for the honor roll.  I did have a good time, though.
So, how'd I end up at Stephens?  First of all, it was not a "finishing school" like my friend, Tom Richmond, likes to tease me about.  He drags out the tired old line, "Yeah, Ellen, went to a finishing school and didn't stay long enough to get finished."  hahaha - not! He says that with his best Texas twang.  Still not funny.
Oh, I digress.  How I got to Stephens:  first of all, I'd never heard of it until I met this really cool girl who had been there.  She lived at Lake Doster.  That should have been my first clue but I was 16 or 17 - what the hell did I know.
So after CMU sent me the big "no thanks" letter (their loss) I applied to Stephens.  They sent a representative to our house!  For a face-to-face interview!  Another clue I overlooked.
We used to laugh about the "driveway test."  We truly believed that if your driveway was long enough, you got in.  In our tiny teenage minds we equated a long driveway with wealth.  Apparently ours made it by a few inches.
I could go on and on about my performance at Stephens (nope, no honor roll) and the classes I took (dance, flower arranging and another that had something to do with reading newspapers everyday which - I didn't) but I just realized that wouldn't exactly put me in the best light so let's bring this puppy home, eh?
The plus to my one year at Stephens is that I met my husband when his all-boys school invited us to a "mixer."  I'm also still in touch with 2 friends; one being my former roommate.
So, am I sorry I went to Stephens?  Absolutely not.  It's been the fodder for many good stories and today's blog entry so I'm calling that year a win/win.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Another favorite spot

This is our movie house - The Old Regent Theater.  It's been there forever and hasn't change much since I was a kid.

The roof collapsed several years ago so at the time of repair a few other things were replaced and updated.

When I was a little rug rat the fire station was right next door - to the right of the theater.  That was just fine until the boys got called out during a movie.  Missed a fair amount of dialogue while the sirens wailed.
That was back in the days of news reels and cartoons prior to the feature.  Remember?  Well, maybe some of you young ones don't but something seems to have been lost when comparing the experience of my younger days to the present time.

One thing we didn't have back in the "good old days" that we periodically have now is - bats!  For no extra charge you get the thrill of a bat or two making a cameo appearance.  Not my favorite part of the evening.

This wonderful old building almost had to shut its doors some years ago but a group of local citizens took it over and got it back on its feet.  It is now operated by our city and they do a very fine job.

Oh, I forgot to mention the best part - it only costs $4.00 to sit in front of the big screen.  Unless, of course, you go on "two for the price of one" night.  There's also "bring you own bag" night for unlimited popcorn.
I love our little movie theater.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Many years ago my husband and I started attending a drum circle held on the full moon by our friend, Ed Gray.  I had to drag him there for the first one.  Let's just say he was a bit reluctant.
We both took to it like ducks to water, though, and hardly ever missed a session.  When the weather was harsh, we'd be inside which I loved because I felt like I could be "inside" and completely surrounded by the beat.  When Mother Nature smiled on us, we'd walk out into Ed's property and sit around the fire pit.  Those nights felt magical.
I loved the whole experience so much that I decided I wanted to make my own drum.  Naturally, true to my nature, I didn't have the patience to wait for one of Ed's classes to do so.  I nagged him until he finally gave in and let me come to the studio and start the process.  It was NOT easy.  A labor of love; emphasizing the word "labor."  Scraped knuckles, blood from poking myself from the humungous needle I had to use and plenty 'o swearing.  But when I was done - I had my very own drum.

That's mine on the left, stained with loose tobacco.  Peter bought his after he saw what I went through to make mine. You need to see the back of mine too so that you can appreciate how hard I worked putting this thing together.  ALL DONE BY HAND.  Oh, poor, pitiful me.  I always tease him saying "mine is bigger than yours."
The other addition to the drumming were the sticks I had my buddy, Jim Stewart, make for me out of a very hard wood called Purple Heart.  They had a distinctive sound when I smacked them together.  I got quite excited during those drummings and hit my sticks together so hard that one of them broke.  Jim had to make me a second pair out of something else, can't remember now but they were equally as good.
That same excitement went into my drum as well.  My sister, Lisa, and my husband used to make me stand outside the circle because I banged on my drum so loudly.  Lisa, claimed I was destroying her hearing.  Really?  Well, maybe she was right.  I mean, I worked up a sweat.
Ed moved to the UP several years ago (I still haven't forgiven him) so no more drum circles.  I miss them (and him) very, very much.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A few of my favorite places

This is Hunter's.  When I was growing up it was called Western Auto but several years ago it underwent a name change.  I like the new name much better because this store has been owned and operated by the Hunters for many, many years.

The original owner was Teddy Hunter.  He and his wife, Julie, lived down the street from us when I was a kid.  They had 4 children and we all became fast friends.

My dad's office was right down the block from this store and when dad would finish work he'd walk down to Teddy's and they'd go out for a beverage.  Teddy's way of keeping his cash safe for the night was to put it in a draw string bag, swing it around his head a few times and toss it up into the rafters.  Now doesn't sound like a smart thing to do, right?  Like, in the morning, how did he get that bag down?  So I could be making it up but it's a good story, eh?
The present owner is Teddy's son, Tom.  He refers to himself as Thomas the Magnificent but no one else does.  Poor Tom. hehehe

This is Huff's Five and Dime.  I know the awning says Springgrove Variety - ignore that - everyone in town does.

It's been Huff's forever and it is another family owned business - as far as I'm concerned anyway.
You can stroll the aisles of any of the big box stores looking for that one little thing that will finish the project you're working on and not find it.  Then you come to your senses and come back into town and go to Huff's.  Yup, there it is! And if you stop by with your dog, Lynn Huff, will spoil him with doggie cookies.

Our library.  It's wonderful.  It's like a home away from home for us.  The staff is always helpful and now they have a pretty good sized area for large print books which we really love.
 You can't see the newer portion in this picture but it extends out the back with large windows which overlook the river.  I love to go there to read magazines and look out those windows checking out the swans, geese, ducks and carp.  Well, maybe not the carp so much but you know what I mean.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A few local pics

Here's our iron bridge.  As you can see from my first post and the street banner below, we use this old, single suspension relic as identification for small town promotion.  It's very narrow and I swear I remember (I am NOT making this one up) being a passenger in the car my sister, Stacey, was driving when she PASSED a car on this bridge.  For real!  I'm 95% sure it happened.

This gazebo is on the river front, as you can see, and was the brain child of one of our local men many years ago.  He wrote an article about being a boy and attending concerts in this area.  That idea sparked a movement to enhance the river's edge and we now have two other gazebos and a board walk that stretches for quite a ways in two different parts of town.

Our river used to be a stinky mess when I was a kid and many, many people have worked tirelessly to change the condition over the years.

Several years ago there was a water ski team that performed during our 4th of July celebration.  As we lined the railing along the boardwalk to watch the young girls with smiling faces ski their little hearts out you could tell who was a local resident and who wasn't by the looks on THEIR faces.

People my age had looks of horror frozen in place and many were praying those darling skiers didn't fall into what we remembered as toxic water.  The others were cheering and loving every moment.

No one's swimming in this river these days, now that it's cleaner, but the houses on the river banks aren't turning yellow anymore.

People walk along the board walk all the time now and come to this gazebo every summer Saturday night to listen to live music.
Life is good here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My sister's birthmark

My older sister was born with a pretty significant birthmark - on her face.  It's called a port wine stain and covers half of her face and then some and sneaks down onto her neck as well.
Growing up I don't ever remember it being an issue.  I was told many years later that my parents took her to a doctor or two and, as the story goes, (I'm pretty sure I'm not making this up) one of the docs asked her what she wanted to do.  She said to just leave it alone.  And there ya go - that's how my sister grew up with a red mark on her face.
I also remember (or think I do) that my younger sister and I told the kids in the neighborhood that our sister was half Indian and if they wanted to see her, they'd have to pay us a nickle.  Nice, eh?
The other memory I have (I think it's mine, anyway) is that when Max Factor came out with something called "Erase", Stacey gave it a try.  It came in lipstick form and was the color of your skin (if you were Caucasian of course) and Stace applied it for the first time just before her friends came to pick her up to go out.  When she jumped in the car they looked at her and said, "What did you do to your face?"  She told them about this new coolio stuff that covered her birthmark.  They promptly told her to go back in the house and wash that shit off her face.  Well, maybe they didn't say "shit" but you get the picture.
They were so used to her "real" face that the fake one gave them the creeps. 
I don't ever remember her talking about being picked on or bullied in school.  Oh, I forgot to mention that she's short too.  Never quite reached 5 feet.  So being the shrimp with a birthmark may have turned some kids into a shrinking violet but not my sister, Stacey.  She's a feisty one and I'm sure that's why no one had the guts to pick on her.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Just" One Child

I have one child.  A son - grown and gone.  It took us 8 years to decide we even wanted children and then thought "just" one was fine.
It didn't appear to be fine with everyone else, though.  It seemed that I was still nursing my son when people started asking me, "so when are you going to have another one?"  That didn't stop for quite a while.  When I responded that this was probably going to be it for us I got "oh, no, don't do that to him?"  Really?  Is it so horrid to be an "only" child?
As the years went by and I'd meet someone new the ice breakers were always "Are you married?  Where do you live? Do you have children?"  After my response, I'd get the sad face with "Just one, huh?"
There isn't some kind of unwritten law that I don't know about that says you have to have more than one or any at all - is there?
I remember talking to a woman several years ago about this very topic.  She had one child and was desperately trying to get pregnant with her second.  Desperately.  She said is was extremely frustrating to be asked that question like it was anybody's business.
I have a young friend who has a less-than 3 yr old and a new set of twins.  I would have had to take up residence in a rubber room.  She's the gal that can handle it, though.  I know myself well enough to know that it was good that I stopped after one.
Only child.  I don't ever say that.  Just one.  Nope.  I have one - no need for further explanation.
BTW - I don't have the skills (apparently) to change the posting time.  No, I'm not up and posting at 5a!  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stealing memories

I'm pretty sure I don't steal other peoples' memories on purpose.  I'm also pretty sure it doesn't have a lot to do with age. That's my story anyway and I'm stickin' to it.  It is true, however, that I don't have a good memory (that belongs to my younger sister) so maybe I "borrow" memories to fill in some blanks in mine.  How's that sound?  You buyin' it?
Here's one I truly thought was mine.  I've been telling this story like it really happened to me for years.  In my mind, this is how it goes:  I was wearing my girl scout uniform and holding the baby of a family friend when her diaper leaked and made a huge wet spot on my beloved uniform.
I've told that story countless times but the last time I told it was in the presence of both my sisters.  My older sister looked at me oddly and said, "Oh my gosh, that happened to me too - with the same baby!"
Really?  What are the odds?  I mean, babies pee on people all the time but - the same baby and we were both wearing our girl scout uniforms????????????
It was at that moment that my younger sister piped up, "Ellen you were never a girl scout." Rut ro.
Now I'm doubting all the hysterical stories I've told over the years.  Was I really there?  Did that happen to me or someone else?
The other thing that's been bugging me in the memory department is other peoples' memories of me.  A woman I went to elementary school with told a friend of mine that I got all the girls in third grade to "give up" another classmate for Lent. Now you'd think I'd remember doing something so despicable wouldn't you?
So if you hear me telling a really funny story with me as the lead character, just laugh along, please and take it with a grain of salt.
Over and out.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Today's topic: butts

Yes, that's right - butts.  From two different perspectives. 
First off is the obvious one - cigarette butts.  I remember, back in the day, when we littered.  That's right.  If you're old enough you'll remember when we threw stuff on the ground and out the car window doing 70 mph.  But that was then and THIS IS NOW!
I realize there's a bit of a logistics problem in that if you're walking and smoking, when you finish that "cancer stick", what do you do with the butt?  That's not my problem, it's yours.  Figure something out.  If you're driving, however, why are you throwing that stinky, still-on-fire, thing out the window?  Aren't they still putting ashtrays in cars?  Oh, you don't want your car to smell badly?  Your window's already open a crack (when it's 17 degrees out, that must suck, eh?) because you don't want your clothes to stink so why not?
The whole smoking thing is beyond me.  I get that it's an addiction (I smoked as a risk-taking teen) but it's a habit that's worth breaking.  For you and the ones that love you.
Secondly and lastly is my gripe about your dog.  Well, actually it's about you, not your dog because many people are NOT PICKING UP THEIR DOG'S POOP that's coming out of their BUTTS.  Get the connection?
Since we rescued Augie almost three years ago and walk him daily, usually twice a day, and we live in town, we've noticed dog poop from dog BUTTS everywhere!
I wonder what people are thinking when they stand there watching their dogs poop: "oh, that little thing?  It's no bigger than a Tootsie Roll, no one will notice that."  Or "holy cow, would ya look at the size of that; there's no possible way to pick that thing up."  So they just leave it there!!!  There outta be a law.  Wait - there is but no one pays attention.
"No poop left behind."  That's our motto here at the Altamore house.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Favorite Jeans

I think this topic can easily be considered unisex - do you have a favorite pair of jeans?  More than one?  Really?  You are a lucky duck then. 
I have a blue pair, a black pair, a used-to-be black pair, a tan pair and a brown pair that I can still wear even though they're speckled with bleach but if it's dark out - I'm good.
If you have a favorite pair, it doesn't necessarily mean that's the pair you look your best in.  It means (at least for me) that's the pair I feel the most comfortable in. 
Mine are the ones that used to be black and are now - well, I'm not sure what color you'd call them now.  Gray?  Yeah, gray.  They feel like an old slipper.
They don't strangle my waist, the zipper is long enough, they are ABOVE my belly button.  That part is crucial.  Below the bell button is fine if you're 17 years old, 6 feet tall and weigh 112 pounds.  Truly, those are the only people (men and women) who should be wearing those jeans.  I don't mean to sound like the fashion police but, come on, you know I'm right.
My comfy jeans are at the end of their life.  I need a new pair.  I hate to shop for jeans.  The struggle, the sweat, the swearing that goes on in those dressing rooms - it's sad.
I need to throw those poor, old, comfortable jeans away.
But not today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Big "C"

So, back to the original title of this blog and where it came from.  As I said earlier, I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 5 years ago. Even though I have a very strong family history (I am the 4th generation to wear the pink ribbon) I was still shocked to hear the words, "you have cancer."
I am grateful to the radiologist who thought it would be a good idea for me to go for a biopsy even though he doubted what he was seeing was cancer, I thank the team that surrounded me during the steriotactic biopsy.  I trusted my surgeon and relied on the nurses ( 3 survivors) in the OR.  I'm thrilled that my oncologist agreed with my decision to NOT have radiation.
I was thrilled with the news the pathologist had for me, "no residual cancer cells."  Those are sweet words.
Then something weird happened.  I had a strange melancholy feeling that I couldn't shake.
"Why me?"  Not why did I get cancer but why am I alive, walking around smiling and singing, and my friends Marilyn, Liz and Patty aren't?  Was I the lucky one?  I don't believe in luck.  Did I fight harder than they did?  No such thing. 
It's called Survivor's guilt and I had a bad case of it.  After a while I came to terms with it.  Life just is.
It's taken a while but I learned something from this whole cancer experience.  First of all, you will rarely hear me use the word "survivor."  It creeps me out.  Feels like tempting fate.  The other words you won't hear me say are "cancer free."  That one really gives me the willies.
Here's the most important lesson I learned, though:  appreciate words and gestures because they come from people who care.  I am not a religious person so when people said they'd pray for me, it felt odd and being a smart ass I could feel words like "fat lotta good that'll do" coming to my mouth but, wisely, I didn't utter them because, well, that wouldn't be very nice, would it?  I realized that any good thought or word whether it was in prayer form or a plate full of brownies (hint, hint) came from people who cared.  I accepted them graciously and thankfully.
All for now.