December 24, 2015

Christmas Corn

      On the way to the last of his holiday gigs before Christmas my creative husband asked me if he was corny. I had to smile. My answer was a resounding yes and I think that is what I love most about him. He is a singer and an artist and a designer and a perfectionist. Except for the perfectionist part, and admittedly even that sometimes, I would not change a thing about him.
     This time of year he is in full tilt. Sometime back a dear friend put him in touch with the Philadelphia Parks Department and he began playing at their Christmas Village in Love Park. As with everything he does in life he threw himself into the show. He has a magnificent top hat he bought years ago in the Mad Hatter shop at Disneyland. He spent every dime in his pocket for it and when he pulls it out I know that it's going to be a real occasion. He asked me to find him a scarf, a white one, and to put a colored ribbon on the hat. He dug out his suit and assembled his version of a Currier and Ives ensemble. Then he learned twenty-some-odd holiday songs with gusto. If he was going to play a Christmas Village, he was going to do it up right. 

Dressed the Part

     We don’t venture into the city very often anymore and so that first year we had to guess how long it would take to get there and exactly where in Philadelphia Love Park was located. We parked a few blocks away and he popped on the top hat and grabbed his guitar. We were off on another adventure.

My husband

     When I first set eyes on him in 1979, I was having a drink with a friend at a local restaurant in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. He had come in after work for a beer and we were introduced. He was growing out his thick head of hair and had tried to contain it into a pony tail. He was lanky and spirited and it was clear he was comfortable in the place. I didn’t know then that he was a local musician and had played in the restaurant for several seasons. He got his drink at the bar and joined us in the booth. Although I was not fully aware of it at the time, I realize now that I fell in love that night. Everyone else left the booth and he and I talked for hours. We had common friends and he was living in a crazy house I had once rented in town. We had plenty to talk about, but there was much more. The rest of the world faded away for those few hours. It was not too many days later that I realized that I had been looking for this man all of my life.

Love Park 2013

     I have followed him on nearly every one of his musical adventures for over thirty years. He has played Love Park for four years now. The holiday spirit builds in him as he stands looking up at historical Philadelphia City Hall. One year he decided to memorize Dr. Seuss' story “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. He printed it out and began reciting it. Everywhere. He was the Grinch in the shower and driving in the car. The words, “little Cindy Lou Who,” echoed throughout my house and in a shocking few days he had memorized it all. The first night he recited it in front of an audience in a local coffee house the onlookers were as wide-eyed as toddlers. So was I. He is a singer and a story teller and he made it magical.

Philadelphia's beautiful City Hall

     This holiday season has been no exception. Again he played below the clock of beautiful city hall and was invited as well to the Christmas Village in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. There the village is inside a huge tent and he was center stage amid the stands serving bratwurst and bacon jam on an unseasonably warm day. He took that holiday spirit that grew inside of him while he practiced his holiday songs and “hitched up old Max,” and he poured it out to an appreciative audience. Last night he did it again.

     In a comfortable diner, not too far away, family and friends and fans gathered. They wore red shirts and warm scarves and they were festive and excited. They came for hugs and smiles and to hear him play. Pat insists he will not record his show. He must do it live. With his partner and bass player at his side, a talented clarinet musician and our youngest daughter, they sang the carols of the season, Blue Christmas and O Holy Night. And, after we all had clapped and sang along his fellow performers moved themselves into the audience and he turned up his microphone and told us all the story of “The Grinch”. He said the words, “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more” and I, like many others, felt a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. It is what we all came to find. Maybe it is corny, but maybe it is the holiday spirit. Maybe it is love.  I know he does it because of all of those things. He loves to perform and he is compelled to share. Every face that looked up and listened last night, and every hand that clapped, gave all the love back to him.

     As I watched him lugging out his heavy equipment at the end of the night I could see that he was tired, and relieved. He had put in a lot of himself and, as always, he made me proud. Proud that he is so moved to share himself and proud that again and again I am fortunate enough to follow. Corny? It's just about the best thing in the world.

A Great Storyteller

Merry Christmas to all!

Please come again.

December 19, 2015


A visit to Grandma's

   And so this is Christmas, as John Lennon said. It is that time of year when autumn turns to winter and we begin to think about a new year. I also find myself looking back, remembering holidays past and the passing of time. I have many joys and pleasures to be grateful for in my life. I have a wonderful marriage and my health, as well as family around me that I love. I have laughter and the experience of over sixty years that lets me look at the world from a delightful perspective. I was reminded of all of that last night when my grandson Michael visited.
     My daughter had come over to practice Christmas carols with her father for a show they are doing this weekend and my grandson hung out with us while I enjoyed tea with a friend. He played with his electronic game for a bit and then showed up in the breakfast room and announced that he was bored. He didn’t care for my suggestion that he might like to wash dishes so I asked him if he would rather wrap the rest of my Christmas gifts for me.

 Michael's First Christmas

     Now, I’m not sure if Michael has ever done it before, but with the perfect bravado of a nine-year-old, he dove into the supplies and set to wrapping the oddly shaped gifts with abandon. They were the kind of things I hate to wrap: a large dog bone, a rope toy and a fluffy pillow. He didn’t care how they were shaped, he just wrapped away. At first he cut paper that was too small, but that didn't deter him. Since he is delightfully free of worries about being frugal (after all it comes on an endless roll) he simply unfurled more and cut a larger piece. He learned that shoving the scissors through the paper tears everything up and he soon became more patient, cutting with smaller snips. Then the real challenge came: the tape. He took on the dispenser in the same lighthearted fashion as the roll of paper. Zip! Off came a good two feet of the sticky adhesive. My friend and I covered our mouths and laughed hard. “Oh, rats,” Michael muttered as the tape folded and stuck to itself. He put that strip aside and zipped off another just as long. With surprising dexterity he quickly flipped that strip of tape against the paper, affixing it swiftly before static electricity could interfere, and amazingly it stuck right where he wanted it. Confidence can overcome a lot of challenges and young Michael is the perfect example of that. He simply grinned and wrapped his heart out.

A table and chairs that Grandpa built

     The thought then struck me, where, oh where, have nine years gone? Michael is now that same magical age my closest brother Thomas was when I noticed him growing tall. I envied him. As a female I was beginning to worry about wearing makeup and shaving my legs. At nine my brother Tommy wasn’t even looking at girls. He saved his pennies so that he could work on his bicycle which he took apart and painted “Candy Apple Green”. He was very proud and wanted a banana seat and a sissy bar. A sissy bar, he explained, was a large bent tube that stood up behind the bike seat. I’m sure he attempted many daredevil feats on that bike. In my mind his life was uncomplicated and ideal. My grandson, Michael, now has that same joy of a nine-year-old and much more. Isn’t that what we want for our children and grandchildren - something even better than what we had?

A toy guitar and amplifier that go up to eleven.

     And so, as a fortunate grandmother, that is my holiday wish for you. May your lives be better over the coming year, yours and the lives of those you love, your sweethearts, your children, your grandchildren and your families. May you rip the tape from the roll of life with confidence and abandon and without worry. May you find bliss and harmony in your heart with the simplest parts of life, the kind of peace that comes to a nine-year-old when the magic of the holidays approach. May your heart hope and believe once again. May you find peace.

Wrapped up perfectly!

Michael - Nine

Please come again.

December 12, 2015

An Early Christmas

      Christmas came early to my house this year as a thoughtful gift from my darling husband. He bought us a new television, but it was so much more.
      Fifteen years ago, when we purchased our 1920s Cape Cod, our plan was to finish the full basement and make it into a huge family room. It would have a bar and maybe a little dance floor and of course we needed a massive television for those football and hockey games. We purchased what was then a state-of-the-art projection TV that measured a whopping fifty inches. It was a big television and a big deal. Soon the children moved out of the house and we found there were many more important and interesting projects to be done on our home. The only ones watching the huge television were my husband and I and the unfinished basement in our house was freezing. We could not imagine when that family room would happen.
      One winter's day we decided that we wanted to watch TV much more comfortably and moved the big unit into the living room. I hated it immediately. Our home was built when the most evolved form of entertainment was radio. The living room floor plan is designed so that people could sit around a roaring fireplace in the winter months and maybe listen to someone's Victory Hour. 

The huge television stuffed in the corner.

      The room is longer than it is wide and the only way to fit the monster television into the room was to tuck it into one corner on the far end. There it didn't block out a window or a doorway. We had to sit across the room and the lovely fireplace became just something that took up wall space and was no longer the focal point of the room. How to fix this problem? Slowly I developed a plan. A reasonably-sized TV in front of the fireplace would put the focal point back where it belonged. But there were other problems to be solved as well and for fifteen years I lamented over it.

The opposite end of the room, far from the television.

      So, for his holiday gift to me this year, my husband asked if I would like a flat screen television. Poor man. I'm sure he had no clue what he was saying.
      It's easy for a man, I think. He would go out and buy the TV he liked and bring it home and plunk it down and see only the TV. Problem solved, right? Oh no, not for me. I realized very quickly that it would need to sit upon a piece of furniture and would have to fit in just right. It had to be the right height and the right color and have the right features. After all, the idea of the gift was that I could have the room the way I wanted, right? Then, what about the sofa table? It didn't match anything, but hidden behind the couch it didn't matter. Now it would be very obvious. What to do?
      Trust me here, you do not want to know the details of what that poor man endured over the next couple of weeks while I took measurements and drew pictures and taped up wrapping paper templates and searched for the perfect TV stand. You would have to shake your head even more than he did while I sat in the living room evenings muttering to myself about how big a TV we could fit and where every piece of furniture would have to go. Then there were the wires, both the ones from the old television and the new. How would they come up through the floor and what was underneath the hearth? My husband is not only quite patient, he's pretty smart. He nodded his head and smiled as if he was listening and then got out of the way. I love that about him.

Wrapping paper taped to the fireplace for measuring a new TV. The cats helped.

      Now it's done. I'm exhausted but I'm happy too. For the Christmas of 2015 my husband gave me a new living room and when he came home after my insane day of rewiring the room and building furniture out of boxes, he sat down and smiled. He likes it, but mostly I think he's just glad it's over. 
 That's my lovely assistant, Secret, on the coffee table. She was there every minute! 

All cozy!

The finished living room. The TV is great! Stop by and watch a game. 
By the way, know anyone who wants a big, projection TV?

Please come again!

December 5, 2015

Where’s the Pillow Lace?

     When I first started blogging I was just learning a new handcraft, namely pillow or bobbin lace. It also happened that shortly after creating this blog my first novel was published and my life took an exciting and unexpected turn. Some of my early posts featured me making my lace pillows and assembling my tools. I'm still making lace but it is a challenging art and it has taken me time to conquer some of the techniques. In the meantime I've gotten emails and messages asking for more postings about pillow lace. 

My lace pillow "dressed" and ready for lace making.

     After publishing my last novel I took some time to focus more on the lace making and today I want to share some of what I have learned. 

The first row of pins

    I decided to not to only make a blog posting about pillow lace but to try a little bit of "vlogging" or video blogging. I took several photos and recorded a video that illustrates the basics of pillow lace. I'm glad I did. Making a little movie was a fun and educational process in itself. I hope you enjoy it.

Please come again!

Click here to view the video