Friday, November 28, 2008

Another Perfect Holiday

Well, following what was the perfect Thanksgiving -- spent cooking, relaxing, eating, and playing games in our jammies but only after an early-morning trip to the fitness center -- we are now sitting around with no game plan. Several months ago, I had asked X if I could have the kids for the full weekend, so that we could make a trip to see family out east. By the time he got back to me it was too late to press on with any elaborate trip, so we decided to settle for something closer to home. That hasn't panned out either, along with most of the other ideas that I've had in the last hour, just trying to come up with something.

So, I'm pissed off, because through no fault of their own or mine, we're stuck. I'm more pissed because the company I work for is cutting me back to HALF TIME as of MONDAY, and there's no guarantee of how long that will last, or whether I and the good folks I followed into that arrangement are going to be able to pull some sort of holiday miracle out of our butts to generate business to make up for the other half. I'm pissed because I'm sitting at home with the kids, having promised them something more festive to do today, but failing to produce. I'm pissed that I had to tell them that we'll be fine for a while because their 43 year old mother is able to cobble together two part time jobs to make ends meet. I'm SO too old for that. Ugh.

I know I still have it one hell of a lot better than a lot of people. I don't live large so while there aren't many places I can cut back, I don't have a mountain of worrisome debt staring me in the face, either. There are people in my own family and among friends who are ill, who are losing their jobs altogether, who have all kinds of sadness and unpleasant situations on hand. I'm just having a bad attitude about the fact that I was just hitting a new place, a clearing in the forest where I could see that things were in pretty good shape and I could start to live like a normal person, you know, without a dishwasher with holes in it, or carpet that looks like it belonged in a frat house. But I guess I'll have to live with that a little longer. Every time I see another "news report" about people not spending money, my head feels like it's going to blow up. Given that so many millions of Americans are out of work, how exactly, is this news? I have a credit line big enough on one card to buy a brand new car, but I'm not an idiot. Look at this story. At least my job isn't to play Dr. Santa.

I know things will turn out ok and most likely even get better, and I know that one key is simply to start behaving like some of the candidates I've helped get into great jobs -- not undersell myself, capitalize on my transferable skills, not accepting anything less than what it would take to keep me whole, truly prepare myself to compete. I also have to make sure I'm not working for free--I am indebted to the good folks who gave me a shot five years ago and I'll do everything I can to help turn things around, but I've cut back my hours in the mornings when my kids are with me so that I can drop my daughter off just before school starts, allowing me a little more time with her but also saving me the expense of morning child care. To think I'm one of the lucky ones in my company? Yah. Needless to say, this concludes my experiment with the corporate sector.

I hope that all y'all are having a reasonably good holiday weekend. As crappy as things seem to be right now for just about everyone I know, I can still think of more than a few things I'm grateful for to every one thing that's got me down. I hope you can say the same, or sing it, or play it this weekend while you have a little time to yourself. As the kids in School of Rock say, don't let the man get you down. You might want to cozy up with someone you care about and listen to this tune from the Red Clay Ramblers, even if it's just your cat or your kid. At the end of the day, what we're really hanging onto is the love we have and the hope to love even more, at this time of year and all year.

One Rose/Hot Buttered Rum

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lucky Seven

Ok, ok. It's been a nutty couple of days and all the while my head has been turning with the "seven" from Blueberry's tag a few days ago. So I call this the Lucky Seven because I'm lucky I got it done before the weekend was officially over. Here's the scoop:


1. Post your list of the seven best albums, the seven bloggers you will tag, a copy of these rules, and a link back to this page.
2. Each person tagged will put a URL to their Blogger Album Project post along with a list of the seven best albums in the comment section HERE.
3. Feel free to post the “I Contributed to the Blogger Album Project” Award Graphic on your sidebar, along with a link back to this page.
4. Post a link back to the blogger who tagged you.
To think I can narrow things down to seven is a bit ambitious but it did get me thinking about some great albums I haven't listened to in a while. It's also, now that I'm done, a bit heavy on the Brits. Hm. What's that about? Well, anyway, here goes:

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours. This album won me over at an early age with the songwriting and some of the acoustic numbers, particularly this one, the groove of which I believe I wore clean through.

The Beatles - Revolver. Things started happening there. I love Rubber Soul too, but there was a little anger and a little rebellion that started to show through with the edge they captured on Revolver.

Tony Rice and Ricky Skaggs - Skaggs & Rice. This is an amazing collection of bluegrass tunes performed by two of the genres top musicians. It's a rare gem with both Skaggs and Rice on vocals, before Rice lost his singing ability.

Elton John - Madman Across the Water. Actually one of my mother's favorite albums, Madman features what I think is one of the best songs ever written. Levon is an American human epic crammed into five minutes of great music.

Eric Clapton - Crossroads. These are the essential recordings through the years, a premiere collection from the Yardbirds on down.

Kate Bush - Hounds of Love. I don't really know what the hell this album is about but it has captivated me from my first listen some 20 years ago. Kate Bush is brilliantly creative, holds nothing back.

R.E.M - Fables of the Reconstruction. Throughout this band's long and impressive evolution, this one has always hung on with me. I think it straddles R.E.M. the alt college-band and R.E.M. the gritty honest in-your-face band. I haven't loved all of their experiements, but I have loved them for trying, and I still have a crush on Mike Mills.


Thank you, Blueberry, for this was actually pretty fun despite how long it took me to come up with my list. Tagged for this crazy meme will be Ipsissimus, Shameless, Shannon, The Yarn Slut, Doc, and Drew. Have fun, music fans!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Before the Magnificent Seven, A Word About A Magnificent Five Stringer

How cool -- as I write this I am listening to my niece on who is filling in for a fellow DJ. Clearly, music pushing runs in the family. It is blustery outside and snowing wildly again, but I feel kind of mellow -- either it's the dribble of rum I put in the hot chocolate to help me cope with the fact that I may need snow tires, or just the onset ahead of schedule of the relaxing I hope to do next week over the holiday week.

Blueberry tagged me with just about the hardest meme I think I've gotten hit with yet -- the seven best albums. OyvehcarumbaLInaYOdel I don't have any idea how I'll come up with those. But, I will try. It may take a few days, but I'll give it a go.

Meanwhile, all week as I've been moving furniture and trying to clean and get ready for the holidays, that Eddie Adcock story has played itself in my head and gosh darn it if I don't find myself coveting one of these. It's completely illogical. Definitely a want, not a need. And since the least expensive model worth having sports a price tag of about $1500, more than half the cost of the new furnace that is running right now, I'll have to stick with the snow tires and maybe the new dishwasher we need.

But it's fun to think about. Used to be you could pick up a Deering Goodtime for about $400. But instead, I think I'll just think about my magnificent seven albums for Blueberry (be sure to check out her seven, very impressive!!) -- maybe even make a handwritten list. (Oh, Blue, if you knew how neurotic my friends are about lists of songs let alone albums, you would realize you now will have us all sucked into this thing!)

Until I can get that run out, I wanted to share the playing of an impressive young woman I saw this year for the first time at IBMA. Kristin Scott Benson is a banjo player with the Larry Stephenson Band. She was part of a workshop I attended, and I heard her play Sunday morning. By then it had been a pretty long weekend for her since Ms. Scott Benson was named IBMA's Banjo Player of the Year. It was great to see a woman win top honors in perhaps the most male-dominated instrument category of a male-dominated genre. Visit Kristin's MySpace page to enjoy tracks from her new release, Second Season.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Proof that Banjo is Brainy

While reviewing a web site my sister in law shared on brain health (it was her brother who suffered the stroke last week and we are all learning as much as we can), I stumbled across this amazing video of longtime legendary five-stringer Eddie Adcock. Here he is with banjo in hand and brain under knife as surgeons attempt to do a bit of fine-tuning in his cerebral cortex while he plays!

Amazing! I had just assured my SIL that while her brother has a long road ahead of him, he is not only physically fit and amazingly resilient, BUT medicine has made enormous strides in addressing brain injury. This piece is case in point. Enjoy!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The last week has been something of a slow and steady race. I feel like I am still in the slight fog of a mild cold, and catching up from a typically busy week on top of which I turned 43, attended-- with two of my fave people--what appears to be a fairly successful fundraiser for one of my fave orgs, and sat working at my dining room table for about 6 straight hours while a surprisingly slight person installed a new furnace in my home. I later sashayed to the fitness center where I realized I really do lose a little ground on the weeks I have the kids and am not pushing myself as hard. That is probably true in every category, because then they leave and I spend the days following in hot pursuit of making up for lost time in all departments.

I had my music with me the whole time, I did play a little more last weekend while they were around than I typically do. But thanks to not feeling well I missed two shows at The Kent Stage during the Folk Festival. And tonight's show, with the amazing Nanci Griffith, is sold out.

But it's ok. It's been the kind of day when it might be just as pleasant and maybe even more productive to pull out the mando, tune up, and set the dial to a song like the one I'll share tonight.

This week also included some very upsetting news about a longtime family friend, my brother's brother-in-law who suffered a stroke last weekend. Only 50 years old and truly the very picture of health, this man is now learning again how to walk, move, eat, teaching one half of his body how to do things he's always done. My sibs and I found ourselves asking each other things like "When was your last doctor's visit?" and "What was your last BP?" I had just been thinking that I need to have my cholesterol checked (it runs rampantly high in my family, part of the rationale behind my more vigorous approach to exercise and more judicious, lighter carbon-footprint diet) when this happened. I found out when my brother called to wish me a happy birthday after we had meandered through many memories and stories about the places and people where we grew up.

So I guess I've been just taking some time this week to keep my head above water and figure out what's next. What do I need to do to take care of myself and my kids? And beyond that, what should I do to keep enjoying life, make more room for myself. Am I missing something? If I had a stroke tonight and couldn't dial up my neighbor or 911, that might pretty much be it. Yet this guy had a housefull of people and still ended up in the same position. Is there anything I should be doing differently?

I dunno. More than once this week I thought, "I'm pretty much who I'm going to be at this point." Not that I don't have room to grow or change, but I'm not a kid anymore, I know a lot about who I am and what I believe, and the older I get the less tolerant I become of bullies, bigots, and ignoramuses. I wasn't born yesterday, and I still have some pride. I'm proud that I have made it this far, proud of my kids, proud to be part of the family I was born into, proud of my work, proud to have so many wonderful friends, and proud that I managed to buy myself a new furnace before the old one broke down.

Pride has a certain place, like, in this song, "This Old Town." It came back to me one night as I plugged my iPod in while cleaning up, not long after my restorative visit home about a month ago. It grabbed me as so much of the stuff of the little chain of river towns I call home. I played it over and over, and learned it the best I could. Tonight might be a good night to pick it up again.

Enjoy, and take time to feel a little pride in your deeds and efforts as you inch along as we all do through life.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Beat the Clock with Dawg and Doc

There aren't many mornings like this when the kids are here and I'm still the only one up at 7:55 a.m.

I may have jinxed myself, but that's ok. I love having the kids around. But there's something special about mornings when Mama is up first. Being awake and functional before either of them is different from when they aren't here and I'm awake and functional. There's a little comfort, somehow, in knowing they are up in their beds, snoozing happily away.

The holidays are coming on fast. There's always so much to do so the holidays are like an added layer of strategic planning. I've been sitting here plotting which expenses I can handle when -- trying not to go out and blow it. In addition to the new furnace, we need a new printer, a new dishwasher (I'll post photos of the rusted out door for the nonbelievers) and a new range. While I'm glad that the previous owners have gotten the good use they had out of these appliances, the thought of taking on the holidays with a 30 year old range is like begging for trouble. At the rate my life is going, there doesn't seem to be any likelihood that I'll be moving out anytime in the next four years, so why not make the time I'm here more functional?

You know how you get, though, when you start thinking and planning ahead and getting a little carried away. Everything starts to look old -- my carpeting with its frat-house-like stains will be the next to go -- and you start to covet, covet, covet. I've gotten pretty good at living with what is but I'm kind of excited about a new furnace. I mean, it's like a really grownup thing to have to do. I'm so lucky to have a reason to need one, you know? And even luckier that I can find a way to replace it before I have to. Life is really, really good. My cup indeed runneth over.

But it's always better with music, isn't it?

This fun little medley includes a tune called East Tennessee Blues -- I don't think it's very bluesy but it's cute and fun to play. I've been learning it a little and played it for the rowdy kids last night who also thought it was pretty cute. I don't play it very fast -- I'm not one to believe everything in Bluegrass or in life needs to happen at top speeds -- but these two fellas do it just about right. How about one from the great Doc Watson and infamous Dave "Dawg" Grisman to go with that Beat the Clock game?

Best to all y'all this Sunday morning!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election Stomp

Well, that was quite a week. I'm still pinching myself, trying to grasp that it's over, that the GOP is getting a time-out, and that I get to keep my ovaries for four more years. (I was going to send them to "John McCain" since he seemed concerned about the "health" of the mother. Seems like they mean more to him than they do to me.)

I've been enjoying fooling around with some older bluegrass tunes on the mando. I have a book put together by Roland White, whose workshops I've had occasion to attend at the last few IBMAs. The book is fun; it's got the tabs for a few dozen tunes, a pair of cds, and fun pics and stories. I had been listening to the old Monroe recording I have on my iPod and a few tunes really stuck out, like this one, Bluegrass Stomp. It's definitely got that "Stomp" style swing to it--akin to Rag, it's a popular blues format after the early black string band tradition. I don't know how Big Mon credited those influences, whether he acknowledged the roots of some of the music. I know Kentucky is not particularly into the whole diversity craze, never has been. But Bill certainly was his own person, and a bigger-than-life figure in a rather small corner of the music world.

Anyway, I sure have fun playing this one, called Blue Grass Stomp. I play it with a lot less apprehension now that I don't have to pack to move to Canada. Enjoy.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Is It Over Yet?

No, it's not. It doesn't really even start for another nine hours. I'm going to sleep for as many of those as I can, then pretend to work all day, then go to the fitness center and try not to hyperventilate. Then I don't know what I'll do.

I'm just ready for it all to be behind us so we can get on with the business of living again.

If you're voting, please remember, you're not voting for someone who is going to make you happy or solve your problems. You are voting to select the next leader of the United States, to represent all of us to foreign countries, to populate the United States Supreme Court, to declare or not to declare war, to invoke executive order to do many things without the blessing of Congress. You are not electing a celebrity, a drinking buddy, or someone who will solve the mortgage crisis or reduce Hamas to a sorry little heap in a matter of days. You are voting, and someone will win, and that someone will not act alone but will appoint a Cabinet to carry out the hallmarks of his administration beyond what is enacted by the next United States Congress.

This Presidential election is only the 56th consecutive such election in United States history. What a young nation we really are. In the case of victory on either side, it will be the first time that either a woman or an African-American will hold the highest or second-highest office in the nation. In addition to the Presidential election, there are senate races in 33 states.

But I'll still be glad when it's all over. On Wednesday I'll wake up ready to go to work the way I have been most every day for almost six out of the last eight years (I've been working longer but just took a little break after the first eleven). It might feel a little different at first but in the end I still fold my own laundry and pay my own bills. And that's what I plan to do no matter who gets elected, and so should you.

Good luck, America!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Big Wall of Time

Tonight's the big night when we get an extra hour back. Unfortunately I'm a bit under the weather so I'll probably spend my extra hour sleeping, but how often to we get an extra hour to do that, let alone anything else? It's also coming on a number of anniversaries. My mother June Anne will have been dead six years ago tomorrow. She would have been 80 years old at the end of the month. My dad will have been dead 31 years at the end of the month. I'll ring in my 43rd birthday in a couple weeks. November is a busy month in our family.

It's amazing how we view time. If anything should teach us impermanence, it's time. Yet we hold onto things and make plans as though we have some control over what happens next. Of course we have to have some kind of framework to hang our lives on, and in the day to day and moment to moment of living we want to engage and feel like we're alive and doing some good. We have friends and families and partners whom we love and big milestones in our lives and work that we do and big changes along the way. But at any time it could all change and we'd be in completely unknown territory.

One thing I do plan to do with my time this coming week is to get out and enjoy the offerings at the 2008 Kent State Folk Festival. On Thursday Darrell Scott and Richard Shindell will be gracing the Kent Stage, and on Friday, a duo I try very hard never to miss, Tony Rice and Pete Rowan. The week is full of goodies, culminating with a performance of another favorite of mine, Ms. Nanci Griffith on November 15.

I always look forward to Rice and Rowan. They are a magical pair, I don't know how else to describe it. When they are performing and the audience is quite honestly rather transfixed, it's a completely different kind of concert experience. These are two guys who bring decades of performing experience and such a spectrum of experience -- Rowan played with Monroe as a Bluegrass Boy, and Tony Rice created a unique smooth sound with his brothers Wyatt and the late Larry. He's also widely regarded as sort of a dean of 'grass guitar, although his playing is much more mellifluous a lot of the time (case in point is his famous rendition of Shenandoah, which you can view here) and he's just one of the all-time best guitarists of popular music, period. Pete's voice is just as smooth and soothing and almost purifying. It's really an incredible time and if you're around I hope you can come, 8 p.m. next Friday night (Nov. 7) at the Stage.

Walls of Time is one of my very favorite tunes. It's built on a sweet lonesome mournful mando part. I'll send it out tonight to anyone who's lost a loved one, who's missing someone gone away or a relationship that has gone wrong, to readers who have children or partners in Iraq or Afghanistan, to readers who have lost furry four-legged members of their family, to anyone who is missing a past or present piece of themselves tonight. This is a nice clip that includes Pete's story of how he and Bill Monroe wrote this tune. This particular rendition is a little "flip" for my tastes, but I hope you'll enjoy it nonetheless. I'm ready anytime to do this number and sing the harmony when any of y'all are up for it.

Have a good night and make every one of those extra 60 minutes count for somethin'.

Walls of Time
Pete Rowan, Tony Rice; that's Mike Bub on the bass. The guy in the pink shirt was another Bluegrass Boy brother but I'm faint on the other mando player.