Tag Archives: challenges

UKE to the rescue

This coming Saturday morning, I leave for my third and quite possibly, last, scheduled trip to Colorado to visit with Dad (note-operative word here is scheduled). With it comes the usual deliberation on what to pack; most of which is rote routine. But those few variable items that require more thought on just how to pack along for the trip are often troublesome.

As a musician, it’s always about the music.

Yes, I have my NOTION software available to me on my laptop if the muse tickles my fancy, or I feel the need to work on compositional works-in-progress.  Heck, I’m so old-school I consider it a badge of honor to whip out my staff paper notebook and jot down ideas using archaic graphite dots.

But that’s not what I’m meaning. And I’m not talking about iPod, streaming or even radio station music, either.

I’m talking about how does one pack that part of your essential being that doesn’t fit into a suitcase, in the overhead bin on an airplane, or be safely transported as general baggage without risk or costing a fortune?  This common question faces all instrumentalists, yet there is no one-size-fits-all answer to it.

Coping with life – the good, the bad and the ugly (to borrow a phrase from a fav Spaghetti Western) – has always been reflected in my music. Prayers, supplications, questions, acceptance; hurts, healings and happy dances; all the dialogue, working through, pouring out – done with my instrument.

Rental 'beater guitar' placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983

Rental ‘beater guitar’ placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983

Borrowing or renting a classical guitar is not as easy as say, a violin. I won’t go into the technical details of why, but suffice it to say that the “beater guitar”* I scouted out to rent during my first extended visit, while hard to procure, did deliver as a sort-of security blanket instrument during that five week time span.

My second visit lasted two weeks, a doable length of time to go without direct instrumental contact so that counted as an easy fix.

But…those were solutions for then. What about now?

This time around, I’m slated for a three week stay. As much as those visits are a precious blessing, they are also very intense; filled with tender moments alongside heart wrenching end-of-life realities.

This time around, hubby booked my flight on another airline, one which allows 1 bag and 1 personal item for free as carry-ons.

This time around, I’ll stuff the computer bag with my wallet, snacks and paperback mystery novel as usual, and tote my UKE as the other carry on.

After all, George Harrison composed ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ on his UKE when his primary instrument was unavailable for use.

*”beater guitar” is a term used by cgers and acoustic guitarists alike that refers to an instrument that can be taken anywhere without fear of ruining it…case in point: around the campfire during wilderness treks.

***

One of my fav renditions of this piece follows and indeed, inspired several of my students at the time to ask me to teach them the UKE…thus forcing me to pursue a certain level of mastery over this little gem of an instrument -

 

Spider Webs, Jacob’s Ladder and ‘Losing the Strand’

Golden Orb with stabilimenta, South Carolina

Our front porch Golden Orb, spinning a ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ addition to its web base

The first full summer we lived in the South we encountered massive and prolific webs of this indigenous species of spider, the Golden Orb.

The spiders themselves get to be quite large and are wickedly beautiful…meaning, these are gloriously colored arachnids that come equipped with some seriously sharp and long legs.

What I found most intriguing was the amount of detail in their webs. Many spiders offer intricate designs in their web-construction, but these Golden Orbs use those as a base on which to further weave additional layers of web construction.

I call them the Jacob’s Ladder addition. Continue reading

My Son – The Sharp Dressed Man

please, enjoy the music while you read the following, I promise it is related to the main thrust of this blog post…and since there are several guitar solos, well, you don’t really need to watch the lyrics up on the screen

Okay, so I’ve been starting and stopping in the writing of several blog posts.

I need to feed the blog, yes, but I gotta say my focus has been a bit wonky since returning from my five weeks visiting Dad.  I started to write about that in a post entitled “Spider Webs, Jacob’s Ladder and Losing the Strand” but could only get so far when I’d lose the strand…(to be finished and posted at a later date).

Then on to a relatively easy Shoutout about the great Maestro Ricardo (and my friend) receiving a prestigious award at the annual GFA Convention in Denver, held just one week after I left. I wanted to attend, but those plans got trumped (don’t know if I like that term anymore…) with the Dad-card. No regrets at all, but it does leave the “Shoutout: In Honor of the Maestro Ricardo” in the queue to be sent sometime whenever I can do a final edit on it…again, the focus thing is the limiting factor here. It may never get finished and sent out since it’s more (out)dated news.

I discovered early on that I didn’t have the energy required to return to my current Swimming with Swans projects. This of course lead to frustration because I needed something to do in the realm of creating while navigating this new pattern of four weeks here and two weeks there; along with the emotional stuff that goes along with end-of-life and long distance elder care.

So I picked up the needle…that phrase is loaded, eh? I first mentioned this phrase in my post “The Rusty Quilter” that describes my history and re-introduction to quilting and fiber art.

Whole-cloth quilt top basted and ready for straight stitch machine-quilting

Whole-cloth quilt top basted and ready for straight stitch machine-quilting

That said, I began in earnest my new ‘now’ project totally unrelated to anything other than as a pleasurable creative outlet: the whole-cloth quilted throw; which will be discussed in greater depth in yet another WIP blog post, as yet unnamed.

During today’s immersion in some straight line machine quilting, I listened to an Amazon Prime Classic Rock Song List.

When ZZ Tops’ tune, The Sharped Dressed Man came on full blast in my earphones and into my brain, I remembered my Jo-Jo and his new obsession with dressing snappy for work.

Joe Lilly is the Sharp Dressed Man

Joe Lilly is the Sharp Dressed Man

Here’s Joe in his Tuesday morning duds, posing in the dining room of my folks’ house, with the telltale cleaning supplies and messiness in the background. One of the fantastic things I got to do while visiting Dad was to make dinner for our kids. Some of Ma’s cooking stuff is still in the kitchen and so I was able to throw together some makeshift family favorites.

Since Joe still lives in the Denver area, he purposely carved out time to stop by after work and/or pick me up for doing fun stuff together during ‘down times’.

One such outing was going to his gig at the Oriental Theatre. Actually, my sorella-amica Lisa and I went to see our sons* at this wonderful venue. Like most musicians, he’s in several bands/ensembles. This one, Heavy Medicine**, added a horn section recently, of which Joe is their main sax-guy.

The Sharp Dressed Man with his Heavy Medicine Bandmates playing the Oriental Theatre, Denver, CO 6/2016

The Sharp Dressed Man with his Heavy Medicine Bandmates playing the Oriental Theatre, Denver, CO 6/2016

Me and my son - the sharp dressed man

Me and my son – the sharp dressed man

Lots more of this mother-son stuff is in the future with each trip back to visit Dad.

Oh and on the marquee behind us is the name Leon Russell, significant in that another blog post in the queue needing to be finished is called, “The Buena Vista Social Club, Leon Russell and Dad”.

Just sayin’.

 

‘Tis a blessing to be loved…

 

 

*Lisa’s son, Ted, is fourth from the left
**The track ‘Dangerous’ includes horns
acknowledgement note: last two photos taken by Lisa K.

Giving Voice: JANE’S STORY

note: still visiting with Dad and Up a Creek, but wanted to send this on in the interim.

It’s just not going away, people. Joblessness & Homelessness is still an on-going reality.

Jane is a blogger-buddy of mine. She is an Everyday (American) Canadian*.

Like you. Like me.

This lady speaks candidly and with more courage than I ever could during our own between homes journey. Her journey-details differ from our own, but the pattern is rote: no job – no home. The experiences and feelings felt are similar if not the same in some instances.

I stand with you, Jane. Continue reading

Up a Creek without Secure Internet Access

I know, I know, it’s been a little over two weeks since my last posting.  And I admit my silence was intentional for the first three days of that space of time. Since I usually manage a once-a-week blog post frequency, I figured I had a four day window left in which to post. No problem.

Besides, I had more pressing things to attend to like prepping for an extended visit with my dad. Continue reading

Giving Voice: Wealth Inequality in America

I found this article/youtube last year during my researching of my Giving Voice Series. It was a bit info heavy, so I waited to post it.  It objectively details what ‘everyday Americans’ have been experiencing for years, but are unable to articulate.  The video is worth the 6 minute view.

Quote symbolPoverty is a major cause of homelessness, that in itself is not a major revelation. What has been surprising to me is the people who I have met in the homeless community who could be any number of people I know today. A cruel twist of fate could happen to most anyone; I have met people who have been overwhelmed by medical bills or who have lost their job and have ended up on the street. There are some people who have chosen this lifestyle and they are in the minority. This 6 minute video explained to me a trend that is growing and should be a cause for concern for all of us. The growing inequality and wealth divide is a problem that is undermining our society and community, and forcing an increasing number of families below the poverty line. By increasing awareness of this, I believe we can and must change this trend. Andy Robbins Photography

 

Groggy Bye-Bye to 2015

I’ve been wanting to write an appropriate post for the end of 2015. Nothing has come to me. Partly due to the fact of being in the throes of a big cold/flu episode. Partly due to the fact of just not being able to face the blank page. I keep trying to get something written to post before this self-important/imposed deadline, but most of what is started is blithery and blathery…yet the urge is insistent: tie up loose ends!

Where to start? Continue reading

Strings, Strength and Soup

Well, I hit a wall on my grant progress shortly after our son left on Wednesday.

The energy of juggling regular meals, avoiding each other’s space when all three of us (both hubby and son are over 6 feet tall, so figure three adult bodies) were camped-out inside our homey 1100 square foot rental, balancing rest and relaxation with a few jaunts here and there, and just the comfy, constant companionship of each other’s company must have triggered my resolve to focus on the grant regardless by squeezing in very productive ‘me times’.  (Now how’s that for a sentence?)

I admit, I panicked.  After all, my goal is to have all but the Budget Section finished sometime within the first full week of December – which is right around this weekend’s corner. Yikes. So what did I do to allay that panic?

Took a walk. No good.
Took a shower. No good.

Cleaned up the kitchen. No good.
Cleared out the leftovers in the fridge. No good.

Stayed up all night staring at the computer monitor hoping the words would come. No good.
Downed two, yes, two, pots of coffee in the hopes that would help the above. No good.

Then it hit me…It’s all about the music.

I picked up the Prisloe and began playing.  Way good. Continue reading

From the Practice Stool: Mo Giolla Mear (an excerpt)

My hand scored copies alongside newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear

My hand scored copies alongside newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear

The other day I came off of the practice stool elated.  It was one of those sessions where everything went right.  The tone from my perfectly honed right hand nails emitted a luscious aural tapestry of sound while working through completed scores of my own creation or arrangement.  Fluidity of movement in the left hand during execution of certain passages, coupled with the flow of interpretive playing all within acceptable tempos…this is my dance, this is my place, this is my praise to the Giver of Gifts.

I was particularly pleased to master specific measures in my classical guitar arrangement of the traditional Celtic piece, Mo Giolla Mear. Written during our between homes time, it is part of my Swimming with Swans: the music project.

Yes, there is an entire story behind the discovery of this piece of music and how it relates to our life on the road.  It remains scattered in the bits and nits of my mind, journals and ‘little list’ e-mail updates jotted down at the time.  For some reason the words do not come easily right now.  The challenge remains for me to sit down, focus and craft a vignette to include in my Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between homes manuscript.

However, while immersed in my music, that challenge is mercifully set aside. Continue reading

Potholders, Project Progress and The Sound of Paper

Surrounded by Introducing Fractal Geometry and May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude, Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper sits amongst an elite stash of books which grace the backside of my desk work surface.  Picking it up, I opened its pages to where I last placed a 2004 Barnes & Noble bookmark and began reading.

Searching for words to cup a myriad of incoherent and vague thoughts swarming about my heat-wave induced spacey-brain, I came across practical encouragement in my current state of conundrum.  That state of wild productivity amidst desperate isolation, struggling to finish projects that are taking on the shape of completion.

Oh – so – slow – ly.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say my ‘Mojo stopped Mojoing’ but I have come up wanting in the energy department of late.  The constant drain of daily in-ing and out-ing in this humid triple digit heat has taken its toll.  The term languid suggests more than a glamourous lady lounging alongside the pool with margarita in hand to weather the weather.  It conjures up a wild-eyed mad-hatter creative, scurrying from instruments to computer to manuscript paper to WORD documents to notebooks to research to pacing to exercise machines to eating tons of watermelon to striving to keep cool to…ad infinitum.

Oh – so – slow – ly.

Backside of potholders

Quilted design on backside of potholders

Resulting in?

Potholders.

See here the fruit of my labors.

A set of potholders made from fabric purchased some 21 years ago.

Say, what? Continue reading