My life in pictures

Practice until you get it right
Practice until you get it right (Philip Shellabarger)

I used to be really bad at taking pictures.  Somehow, I could not get the hang of my 110 Instamatic. First, I had to buy the film. Then, feeling the strain of the expense of a roll of film, I severely rationed the use of 24 exposures.  When the roll of film was spent, it was either left in the camera to season, or removed and tossed in the center drawer of the desk to await a newspaper coupon for discounted developing.   18 months later, coupon  and cash exchanged for prints, it was disheartening to find my memories of the occasion fuzzy – and also my pictures.  What a waste.  My too frugal budget could not stand it. I gave up taking pictures.

For decades, my life was built on getting it right the first time. Experimentation that resulted in waste was not allowed. While excellence is a worthy goal; perfectionism or poverty are cruel and joyless motivators.  Failure to get it right the first time results in giving up because you cannot afford to give yourself a second chance.

Independence Monument in a late summer cloud
Independence Monument in a late summer cloud

I continue to live on a frugal budget.  These days, I have a smart little economical camera that allows me to take pictures with wild abandon; keeping or discarding at will at no extra expense. The freedom to practice away increases the quality of my photos. Even the batteries are rechargeable. News publications that used to be chary with color print and picture space now require a  picture – an eye-catching visual – to publish.  A camera is essential to my writing career.

If you are going to write about life; another essential is experience. Some experiences come via attending events. Events come with a cost; ten dollars, twenty, maybe even forty for a concert or show. Attending events is like taking pictures – you win a few and you lose a few.  Many times you just click the discard button. But you keep going because once in awhile there is a stellar surprise.  It’s a lot like life.

barefootWhat I really want is a digital budget – maybe even a digital life. I want to be a shutter bug, clicking away at memories, pictures, events – not missing out on a single thing.  But, I want to be able to delete the fuzzy, smudged, unfocused and undesirable.  I want to quit demanding my money back for the events that failed to meet my expectations; but I also want the freedom to keep practicing until I get it right.

Only 365 Days to sing and make music – – Quartet, the movie

Avalon at night
Avalon at night

An upscale retirement home for aging musicians.

A birthday party concert for Verdi.

A residence where every type of music and musical personality emanates from the walls of every room.

Another curtain call – one last hurrah in the final stages of life.

What could be more appropriate?

I took myself to a movie last night.  Yes, I skipped supper and ran out the door after my final piano student to make it to the historic, downtown Avalon before showtime. I sat in the lumpy and aged theater seats of what was known as the Cooper Theater in my childhood.  It was the place I first saw the original “Fantasia.”  Also where I gagged at the smell of a cigarette smoked surreptitiously nearby. But that was once upon a time, very long ago.

As the reel rolled, I was reminded over and over again of who I am and who I used to be.  More importantly, I was reinforced in my resolve of the past few years to live each year as though I have been given 365 days to live. Things that need to be said, relationships that need to be healed, dreams I want to come true; come under deadline when I have been given 365 days to live. As Robert D. Smith says in his book, 20,000 Days (2013), “…imminent death inspires clarity of purpose.”

Was it a feel-good movie?  Do tears make you feel good?  Does getting older comfort your soul?  In some ways, the plot was reminiscent of “August Rush” with the underlying theme of never giving up on your music. Over the past year, I have played numerous one hour piano gigs at retirement centers. The movie, “Quartet,” is a poignant and comedic reminder of the changes that happen as talented, intelligent people age.   Think of it as “Pitch Perfect,” for great- grandparents.

These were opera singers.  While I have never aspired to sing opera, the similarities to the music life in general brought back vivid memories – pictures from the scrapbook of time. Reggie’s magnificent presentation, to high school kids, of the similarities between rap and opera reminded me of numerous times I stood in front of a class, endeavoring to engage middle schoolers by following the common thread, however thin, between their favored genre and classical music – back through history to the roots of music.

Are you like me? Whatever my goals and dreams, I want to keep doing them, reaching that high-point again and again.  It is not enough to cross something off the bucket list – to redeem and reconcile the past.  Living each day in the present, saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done daily is also part of the deal.

I will make music. I will. I will. I will.  And, I will live to write about it.

What are you doing in the 365 days you have been given?  Are you keeping the music alive? Please leave me a comment, so we can encourage each other.

A brief return to the stage as Mrs. Mullins in the 2006 production of Carousel at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado
A brief return to the stage as Mrs. Mullins in the 2006 production of Carousel at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado, Matt Nageli as Billy
A five-month foray into the world of barbershop singing with a quartet of my own in early 2012
A five-month foray into the world of barbershop singing with a quartet of my own in early 2012

Not Pictured: A senior’s oldies band I played with briefly in Seattle in 2011 resulted in relationships with other aging musicians.

A Bump in the Road

AKA The Red Pearl
AKA The Red Pearl

A few weeks ago, I bought a new car – new to me anyway.  I had been looking for several weeks, and doing my research.  I did not purchase blindly.  I knew what make and model I wanted and why. Before closing the deal, I ordered the CARFAX and had a mechanic do a 41 point inspection. Some items needed to be addressed in the near future, but they were not critical.  The information informed my purchase price and my savings account.

With delight I moved through the purchase and titling phases and took my new vehicle for a spin to all my favorite DSCN4965Philboardplaces:

The Colorado National Monument

The grocery store

Ft. Collins to visit two of my children

What a ride!

Things were unfolding just as they should.

DSCN4966AndreagrassThen, I hit a bump in the road.  On Easter Sunday morning, cold and frosty in Ft. Collins, my wonderful car refused to start for an extended period of time. Give me a break!  It’s a Rocky Mountain Edition Subaru. After noon, I enjoyed the 5 hour return trip to my little adobe house without negative incident and with several leisurely sightseeing stops along the way.

At noon on Monday, when the weather was fine, the car once again balked at start-up. And at 7:00 Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, I followed my intuition and filled the gas tank with premium from my regular supplier. (That’s the thing about a Subaru, you return from a road trip and still have to drive around town for a week to empty the gas tank). My Friday morning start was better, but over the weekend things digressed again. Thursday, as I prepared to return to the mechanic for the recommended repairs, it took 15 minutes to get the car started.  I’ll be honest.  Cold starts were one of the reasons I sold my 1994 Subaru in February and the buyer knew that.  I paid for an upgrade to 2004.

This type of frustration leads me to think, “I bought a lemon,” or; “The seller deceived me.”  But logic says, “this is a one owner car, 9 years old. The car has 184,000 miles on it.  You do not keep a lemon for 9 years and put 184,000 miles on it.” This too, shall pass.  Yes, I bought a nine year old car, expecting to put out a thousand on repairs every year – but, $1,700 in the first two weeks?  That’s a little steep.

This car is a part of my decision to live 2013 as though I have been given 365 days to live. Already it provided the freedom and confidence to travel over the mountain to loved ones. It is my ticket out of town anytime I need to flee. With regard to unforeseen expense, I will say over and over to myself, “it’s just a bump in the road, it’s just a bump in the road.”

   Let’s hope the same phrase gets me through tax time.

Keep calm and pay your taxes.


Wherein I contemplate relationships and childhood sweethearts

April 6,

Greeting the distanceToday is Paul Hawkins’ birthday.  Happy Birthday, Paul! You probably don’t know who Paul Hawkins is.  To my knowledge, he never became a celebrity or distinguished himself in any manner other than raising a family and doing the work that was given him to do under the sun.

He was my boyfriend the year I was seven and oh, how I loved him.  He seemed to see deeply into my soul and I into his. We were to be married someday.  We talked of it and planned.   We took our vows. The next year, he was someone else’s boyfriend, another’s the year after that. With his wry sense of humor and moral steadiness, he was popular with the girls. My feeling of connection and loyalty lasted considerably longer than one year.

Given that I have two failed marriages on my record and Paul has celebrated decades of anniversaries with a high school sweetheart, it would be unfair to cast myself as the more loyal person.  I am not sure precisely where he lives today, nor what has been his occupation for the past forty years.  So, why is it I remember his birthday, yet have to drill myself to remember special dates for close friendships formed in adulthood?

Let’s leave that question for later, or give it to the analysts or folks who study aging and memory. Or use it for a debate point for educators anxious to cram content into the brains of children while they are still young and fresh. But to the educators I give this disclaimer: I don’t remember Stevie’s or Russel’s birthdays.  (Stevie and Russel were my loves in first grade.  I haven’t seen either of them since 1961.)

Recently, I spoke with a 20-something woman who is still single. She dreams of marrying someone she has known over the long haul, in many settings, through joy and grief, hard work and leisure; someone with whom she shares a lot of activities and interests in common, including the past. Shared history is a plus to a relationship.

I have cousins who married childhood sweethearts, pursued meaningful careers and are now enjoying the retirement years together. They also shared certain values.

On the other hand, I know some friends and relatives who married in haste, not knowing enough about the other.  They spent the rest of their lives trying to adapt and learn to get along; determined to be the right person since they didn’t marry the right person.

So, what if you find yourself of marriageable age, your goals and dreams include having a family, but you don’t have an available friend of the opposite sex with whom you grew up?  Are you doomed to a life of singleness or mismatched misery? Most certainly not!

I also know some people (I have a whole passel of relatives) who did not meet a soulmate until education was finished and career begun, yet the relationship blossomed quickly and they felt they had known each other forever.  Their interests and values were aligned. They possessed an abundant ability to love and be loved in return.

So, why do I remember that today is Paul Hawkins’ birthday? I think it has to do with who I am now – an old lady with a full memory chip. At the age of seven, his was the first birthday outside my own and those of Mom, Dad and Brother, that went into my memory cache.  Teachers and musicians know that the first and last things you hear stick with you best. It is the stuff in the middle, the transition and development, that gets bogged down and foggy.  I’ve had a long transition and development.