Friday, January 28, 2011


It was another snowy Tuesday night in New England when I tuned in to NPR’s Radio Deluxe. It was bird night and floating on the airwaves were songs like ‘When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along’, performed by Jessica Molaskey the show’s co-host; Boz Scaggs singing ‘Skylark’; Curtis Stigers’ rendition of ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ (yes sisters, I sang along!);
 Dave Brubeck’s ‘Strange Meadowlark’; I heard Linda Ronstadt sing ‘Heart Is Like a Wheel’, and the music kept rolling along.

The vibes resonated deeply, absorbed, I guess, when I was too young to change the record or the radio dial, the melodies programmed into my music bone. This night the music eased my household tasks: dishes, picking up snow boots off the kitchen floor, matching up a laundry basket full of socks, finding pens and pencils on every tabletop under books and junk mail, and putting all these ‘things’ in their designated spots.

The radio show went on to include songs from Nat King Cole, John Pizzarelli, the show’s other host and Grover Kemble, Joe Venuti , Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, Tony Bennett and more.

The woodstove flickered, the radio sang, and for once I didn’t mind getting chores done, in fact, I rather enjoyed them. The music was like comfort food for my soul, a conduit to childhood memories. With the snow blanketing the world outside, inside the music swirled under the eaves of the barn I call home, tickling the timbers like piano keys. Thinking about it, I realize why the phrase ‘music soothes the savage beast’ was coined.

I remember reading somewhere that Jimi Hendrix believed music could actually heal you, like medicine. I wonder what music affected him? I wonder what music affects you? For me, when the spirit moves me there is always music involved, be it gospel or classical, jazz or rock 'n roll, or a bird singing in the trees. Music speaks to me, it speaks to everyone; it reflects our roots, our cultures – and ultimately moods and ourselves. And it can certainly make housework on a snowy New England evening feel like a little slice of heaven.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I like to have a place for everything and put everything in its place. Cleanliness is next to godliness after all, and clutter only leads to stress. Besides with a houseful of people it sure makes it easier to find the hammer or the rake or the scissors when you need them, if once you have finished with them you put them back in their designated spots. The trick is to get everyone to agree to these rules. Of course, it always works best if everyone also agrees on the designated spots. As a family, we’re still working on this.

My Old Man, Paul – I’ve been watching ‘Sons of Anarchy’ lately – and my kids think I’m OCD, just because I like our house and garage to be neat and clean and organized. By the way, calling the garage ‘The Man Cave’ does not preclude you from putting the tools back where they belong. I also do not understand how they can use silverware, plates and glasses everyday, but when I ask them to empty the dishwasher these items end up in cabinets or drawers not remotely related to their designated spots. I am starting to believe that this is a conspiracy to keep me doing the dishes, but I haven’t been able to prove that yet.

Speaking of kitchen utensils, there has been an ongoing discussion that knives are not tools. Not only do I continue to find them in the garage, usually with their tips broken off, but each and every person questioned disavows any knowledge of using a knife as a screwdriver, a wood carving tool, scissors, a poker or a scraper; all of which are freely available for use, if you can find them.

I feel like I’ve become a spy in a Mission Impossible series.  My family has become part of an elite covert operations unit carrying out highly sensitive missions involving my kitchen knives, subject to official denial in the event of failure (breaking off the damn tips), death (why did he stick that knife in the electrical socket?) or capture (shit, hide the steak knife, Mom is coming!)

I want to attach a recording to the silverware drawer so that when it opens, Robert Cleveland’s voice is activated.  “Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to only use these knives for food service and return them to the dishwasher when you have finished eating. If you are caught using them to cut your lacrosse nets, guitar strings, or as a screwdriver for any purpose, the Old Man will disavow any knowledge of your actions and will disappear until the ranting subsides.”

I just don’t understand, staying clean and organized is really not that difficult. Let’s use the bathroom as an example.  After taking a shower do not leave your towels in a wet pile on the floor where they not only become quite smelly, but cause your mother undue embarrassment when guests have to pick them up to dry off their hands. Instead follow these simple steps: 1.) Step out of shower, 2.) Remove clean towel from rack, 3.) Dry body, and most importantly step # 4.) RETURN TOWEL TO RACK TO DRY.

I know for a fact that Jane Goodall taught chimpanzees to perform these steps as proof that they were, indeed, as smart as human beings. Much to my chagrin, each time I brave entering the downstairs bathroom, I have to question my family’s latent genetic make-up, admitting to myself that they may not be quite as smart as the monkeys.

As I mentioned, I have been watching ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and I’ve been thinking that maybe a more hard line approach might be the ticket to keeping our living space organized.

I contemplated what Gemma might do to Jax if he started leaving his AK-47’s willy-nilly around the Clubhouse. She’d probably say something like, “Hey dumbass, how many times have I told you not to leave the goddamn guns lying around. Jesus, even the Mayans keep their Clubhouse picked up.  You’re giving Sam Crow a bad name here.”

“Back off Mom, I’ll get around to picking them up.  I had to go kick some Niner ass and I haven’t had a chance to get to it yet. Geez.”

“Did you just tell me to back off, Jax?” Gemma asks with a raised eyebrow. “By the way, have you seen my favorite steak knive, I caught Tig using it to dig a bullet out of Opie last week and I had to kick his ass.”

“C’mon Mom, you know I always throw them back into their designated wall next to the bar.”

“Yeah, right.  Well get busy and hide these guns in the back room where they belong before I have to shoot you in the ass again. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to pick your towels up off the bathroom floor, I’m sick of them stinking like gun oil every time I go to dry my hands,” she says shaking her head.

I guess it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone struggles with keeping things in their designated places.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


When e-mail first made its debut I was like my grandmother and the dawning of the answering machine:  ‘Who needs it, if it is important they will call back.’  I did not believe that e-mail would ever truly take the place of ‘snail’ mail, but I have jumped firmly onto the e-mail bandwagon. I am a full-fledged convert, a true believer and bona fide e-mailer extraordinaire.

Perfect example: Paul and I were in the same house, practically in the same room and I was waiting to speak with him, quite patiently I might add. He finally finished his phone call - business as usual on the mobile phone, which is a whole other discussion in itself, and we attempted talking about family issues, mostly scheduling.  It was a lost cause. 

He spoke of his priorities, I spoke of mine, and we tried to coordinate what everyone else expected from us, too. There seemed to be quite a bit of overlapping and I had to confess that I was confused and fearful we would let someone’s festivus plans slip through the cracks, annoying them to no measure, and filling me with traditional holiday guilt.  His business trip to Chicago, my Safe Driver’s Course, regular work schedules, holiday “festivities’ (yes, that is in a quote for a reason, there is no stress like scheduling holiday ‘festivities’ with family and friends). So anyway, I asked ‘Can you put your schedule in writing, maybe THEN we can get this all figured out.’

I was thinking sticky note, because as much as I hate to admit it, I am at an age where I need lists to keep myself organized; his reply, ‘I’ll e-mail’. Problem solved. After several e-mails to each other while he was on the couch and I sat at the dining room table, we had a plan.We still didn’t get every activity covered and had a few disappointed people we couldn’t fit into our crazy schedules, BUT we could e-mail our apologies and a promise to catch up as soon as time allowed.

E-mail solves other problems as well: thank you notes you’ve put off for too long, quick hellos to let friends and family know you still are alive and well, reminders to your children to brush their teeth and eat their vegetables even though they live three states away now, reminders to yourself of appointments to the doctor or dentist, and forwarding every funny joke on earth to people who feel the need to do the same for you – junk mail got on board the e-mail train IMMEDIATELY.

So who is to say that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, I am a perfect example. I now embrace e-mail whole heartedly. As a matter of fact, I don’t know how I ever got along without it. Do you?