Tag Archives: colorado

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 -

 

Peace Post: Found while rummaging through Dad’s piles

Postcard sent to Ma & Dad, Lakewood, CO May 2005:

Colorado post card to ma and dad

I often send greetings via snail mail to loved ones

Message on back:

“Remember that all music, in general, is a succession of rainbows.” Pablo Casals

Ma & Dad: I hope your day is filled with color and harmony. Love, Laura

ShoutOut: Hospice is a Godsend

note: click here for hospice information

I’m gearing up for another trip out to visit Dad.  I’m officially on a ‘four weeks here and two weeks there’ schedule that is subject to change as Dad’s situation escalates; these next two weeks I’ll be ‘there’.

Dad’s steadily declining, but in a good way…not a panic stricken, fearful way because he is in the compassionate and knowledgeable hands of hospice and the Ashley Manor caregivers – all of whom I believe to be extensions of the Lord’s own hands here on earth.  During my recent five week visit, I interacted with the staff, healthcare professionals and other residents while visiting, sitting with, and eating with Dad.  They all have hearts of gold and strength coming from somewhere beyond the realm of human ability…I stand in awe and in deep appreciation of all they do on behalf of my dad and their 5-6 other elder-housemate residents.

Hospice is a Godsend.

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.

Collaged Times with Dad

I thought perhaps a little photo collage of my time spent with Dad would be kind of refreshing for anyone interested.  Usually I send off a few select photos to those on my ‘little list’, this time I’m sharing them with all of you – on my ‘little list’ and in the blog-o-sphere!

Me, Dad and Terry Colorado 2016

Me, Dad and Terry

So, to continue…

Joe & hubby goofing off after dinner

Joe & hubby goofing off after dinner

Terry got to visit with Dad two times before he had to leave. The night before Terry left, Joe came over and we had a great mini-family dinner.

 

Dad at 93 practising his clarinet 2016

Dad at 93 practicing his clarinet (2016)

 

One day I walked in on Dad tooting the ole liquorice stick…

 

 

 

 

Dick with his first side by side milkshake

Dick with his first side by side milkshake (mine is on the left for art’s sake)

After one of many ‘care conferences’ for Dad, I treated baby bro to his first ever Steak and Shake side-by-side milkshake…and as a dutiful sister, promptly got him addicted!

 

 

Dad listening to Joe play.

Dad listening to Joe play.

 

Later, when Joe and I visited Dad, he didn’t feel like playing. He offered both his sax and clarinet for Joe to play instead. While I held up the sheet music, Joe sight-read an assortment of Dad’s arrangements of Jazz-standards.

Joe, Dad and me

Joe, Dad and me

 

 

 

Joe with his granpa Jazzman

Hamming it up for the photo-op

Wondering why Dad is always wearing his cap and jacket? It’s just all part of the mix of getting older I guess since it was close to 90F outside!

 

Al Bruno at 93

Here’s lookin’ at ya!

 

One day, Dad did decide to shed all that baggage!

 

 

 

Michelle Solorio, Al Bruno, Laura Lilly

Michelle, Dad and me

 

Towards the end of my extended stay, Michelle came into town for a friend’s wedding.

We got to see Dad one last time before I left.

And, I got to cook for my two kiddos…

Brother & Sister Together 4ever

Brother & Sister Together 4ever

I’m Back! (for a little while at least)

Wednesday’s 11:59 PM night flight out of Denver to Raleigh/Durham was very efficient use of travel time indeed. But tack onto the three and a half hour flight time with another two and a half hour drive back to FloTown and the dawning of that new day became very disorienting.

I spent most of my Thursday in a post-flight fog. Nothing like jet lag from out-of-the-country flights, but enough of a kicker to remind me that there’s no such thing as ‘flights of fancy’ (ugh, poor attempt at a pun-y quip!)

Today I awoke to a celebration of life in the now: hubby’s and mine 38th wedding anniversary!

As I reenter the realm of being online, I offer up two previous posts written on celebrating this date – sticky noted and following this post. (found here and here once they are un-sticky noted)

And then, as I ease into a slightly altered routine tempered by perspective gained from being away, more regular posting will resume.

Happy June 17th!

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

Mother’s Day mp3 Greeting

Have you ever tried to sing along to a Led Zeppelin song?

Not the easiest thing in the world to do.

But that didn’t deter my kiddos from sending me an mp3 of their Mother’s Day wishes and gift in a verse composed by my Michelle and sung together with my Joe to the tune of Zep’s “Going to California”.

Let me put this in context for you: Joe is in Colorado, Michelle (and hubby David) are in Michigan; they did a speaker phone call to sing this into a little thumb drive recorder attached to Michelle’s computer that she uses for research interviews.

So, it’s the non-musician in the family who orchestrated this fun Mother’s Day greeting…(transcript follows) Continue reading

The Buena Vista Social Club, More Cowbell and Cinco de Mayo

I was digging through the More Cowbell Cult Playlist I compiled about 2 years ago looking for the song by The Buena Vista Social Club that featured cowbell. I thought maybe since it’s close to Cinco de Mayo, I’d feature it in a blog post and revive the call to contribute to the expansion of this fun playlist.

I know, I know, Cinco de Mayo isn’t a Cuban holiday…heck, it isn’t an American holiday either, so?

I confess to liking any festival that encompasses dancing, food, family, music, art and community involvement regardless of ethnic origin.

viva la raza

my former fiance was deeply involved in the early days of La Raza

I was first introduced to Cinco de Mayo in the early 1970’s, long before it mainstreamed into American culture.  At the time, I was engaged to a young man who was Chicano*.  We were both students at the University of Colorado, Boulder – then and now a hotbed of education, social activism and well yes, partying…Along with the normal Vietnam protests, we spent a lot of time not buying or eating grapes from Safeway…. !Viva La Raza!

Continue reading

Celebrating a Singular Between-Time

 Today is bd Day.
A between-time of singular personal significance.
February 6th of any year is bd Day – Ma’s birthdeath Day.

February 5, 1929 Marylou Mawicke (married – Bruno) was born.
February 7, 2007 Ma passed away.

In those last two and a half years we had left living in our home in Colorado following her death, I spent countless days visiting her new cemetery home – talking to her, sitting against her head stone or laying down beside her. During those two years after losing her to COPD/emphysema I mostly sat cross-legged facing the grey-streaked white marble marker praying, crying, touching her name, cleaning the engraving, walking amongst her neighbors, sometimes bringing Dad along for his own face-to-face time(s)…always leaving gifts – tightly closed rosebuds from our climbing rose bush in the front of our home in Colorado or small rocks and Indian Paintbrush stems gathered from our family’s mountain property, or other tokens like ticket stubs to movies or concerts or Broncos stickers…Most of the more traditional offerings of floral bouquets consisted of blossoms cut from my own abundant garden(s) in our home in Colorado, especially when those Bruno Purple Giant Irises were in bloom that first Spring after her passing.

Once hubby and I sold our home in Colorado and began our between homes time, we’d return from time to time and I’d visit Ma, leaving bits of where we’d been – a perfectly flattened blue hued skipping rock from the shores of Lake Superior gathered in the Upper Peninsula my first birthday away from family and our home in Colorado; a sprinkling of white sand from the White Sands National Monument outside Las Cruces, NM gathered on respite outings after particularly hard days of elder-caring hubby’s mother; a half-opened milkweed pod found along a meadow path in North Webster, IN; a handful of Leggy Lady’s tail/mane hair from the grooming brush gathered during our time on the compound in the desert; a slice of Saguaro Cactus spine from Fountain Hills, AZ…

Each of the two Februarys we had left living in our home in Colorado, I spent February 6th as a Day for visiting her grave as a sort of ritualistic honoring of her life.

I distinctly remember the first of these two bd Days. 

That day in 2008 was unusually grey with a stiff wind signaling an impending snow storm. It didn’t deter me from my mission, though.  I needed to share something with Ma, alone, without family members who’d be gathering the next day marking the first anniversary of her death.

Driving through the Fort Logan National Cemetery on my way to her gravesite, I rehearsed what I had to say and how I was going to do what I needed to do. Coming upon the curb area closest to her headstone, I parked, opened the door wide and pressed play on the car’s cd player.  Walking towards my destination, I heard the beginnings of the music blasting forth from a few feet away…

“Ma, this is what I wanted to play for you the day before you passed away; I wanted you to be the first to hear it – finally finished and ready to record – I wanted you to know – to feel me there with you, to be a part of your leaving us. Me.

But I was too afraid…It’s taken me this long to understand why.  Somehow deep inside I thought if I could play it for you, it would work its musical magic and you’d awaken – and be back with all of us. I couldn’t face you awakening somewhere else, someplace I couldn’t go along with you.”