Category Archives: love

Facebook is Killing Me…Not with Kindness

And it’s killing you, too.

Back in the day, when someone was a known criminal or evil doer, the townspeople would get together and hunt them down. There always seemed to be a surplus of pitchforks, so everyone could carry one as they ran. (Not very safe, people of yesteryear.) Some folks with very good balance and short hair could carry both a pitchfork AND a torch.  Yeah, an open flame. This angry mob would get themselves riled up at Farmer Jenkins barn and then run through the streets screaming and crying out for the mischief maker. Getting the hell outta Dodge was probably the best idea for the troublemaker if he wanted to avoid the tarring and feathering that came next.  Ouch.

angry mob

Luckily, tar and feathers aren’t used as much anymore, but that angry mob mentality is still very much alive in our society. Even in polite society, if there is still such a thing.  Our standards for others are so high that we are instantly outraged with any mistake, large or small. No one is allowed an error anymore. Especially if you have any sort of celebrity status. Yes, of course I have examples.

The Oscars 2017

If you are a follower of this blog, you will know that I’m not a fan of the Oscars™.  (I put the TM in there to be funny.) I am an avid movie watcher and I appreciate each and every person who is involved in the making of a film from best boy to starring actor. (What does a best boy do anyway?) That being said, I don’t like a group of elite rich folks telling me what movie is the best. The whole process is fixed and ridiculous. Here’s Adam to tell us why:

Should filmmakers be recognized and awarded? Certainly!  How about we let movie fans vote or let professionals be judged by their peers in a non-televised event?  They can tell us about it afterwards. We can write them letters and tell them they’re great. (Thanks Joe Walsh!)

joe walsh

But I’m straying from the point here. If you were awake on Oscar night or the next morning, you heard about the Best Movie announcement “epic disaster.” No, there wasn’t an earthquake or violence of any kind, but Warren Beatty was involved. Mr. Beatty and Faye Dunaway were tasked with presenting the award for Best Picture. They were given the wrong envelope and subsequently announced the wrong movie as the winner. A few minutes later, the mistake was realized and the correct film was announced. People were disappointed, I have no doubt, but everyone is okay. No one was taken to the hospital, the roof didn’t collapse and no one’s “goodie bag” was taken away. Later that evening, it was announced that the two accountants from PriceWaterhouseCoopers handed Mr. Beatty the wrong envelope.

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These two people were instantly vilified in the media. As per usual, folks who were unaffected by the accountants’ actions were crying for the accountants to be fired immediately and banned from the Oscars for the rest of their lives. And we should all get to throw an egg at them. Brian Culllinan and Martha Ruiz apologized many times and said they were “devastated” by their error. It was revealed that Mr. Cullinan was engaging in social media right before this fateful error, so that makes it even worse for some reason. If he had just been standing there picking his nose, would that make it okay? In an admirable twist of fate, PriceWaterhouseCoopers did not fire the two accountants. They are quoted as saying it was an “honest mistake.” The two accountants lost their gig at the Oscars, but their company kept them on.  An honest mistake.

Ryan Lochte

Remember that guy? Ryan Lochte is an Olympic swimmer. He has won 12 Olympic medals and currently holds four world records. That’s pretty fantastic and he did it all before he was 31 years old. This guy knows what he’s doing in the pool.

Swimming - Olympics: Day 4

Then the 2016 Olympics in Rio happened. Ryan was finished with his events and went out on the town with a couple of his teammates.  Four young men at the top of their games partying in Rio. They got drunk, they did dumb stuff. Lochte was accused of vandalizing a gas station bathroom. A security guard pulled a gun on him and the others to make them stop. Lochte handed over some money to pay for the damages and the story got way out of hand from there. So, Ryan was probably upset about the incident and told his Mom about it over the phone, but he didn’t tell anyone else. Somehow, a FoxNews reporter heard about the incident and reported it. The International Olympic Committee and Ryan both denied the allegations, but then there was the video footage.  Whoops. So now Ryan was caught lying to his Mom and possibly the Olympic Committee and now had to save face in front of the media. So, he did some creative storytelling.

Everyone turned on Ryan in a heartbeat. He was a beloved American athlete the day before, but now he is the scum of the earth. He finally admitted his wrongdoings and was quite severely punished.  He was banned from professional swimming for 10 months, he would miss the 2017 World Championships, he was not allowed to visit the White House with Team USA and he had to forfeit $100,000 dollars in bonuses.  He also lost most of his endorsements, including Speedo USA, Ralph Lauren, Airweave and Syneron Candela. ESPN estimated he lost a total of 1 million dollars.  But I’m sure it was way more than that.

Did you ever lie to your Mom when you were in your 30s? Did you ever get drunk with your friends and do something really, really stupid? Well, I did. (Sorry Mom.) Thank God there wasn’t social media during my public drinking days. So glad I don’t have to relive those moments with the world looking on. I get it, lying is terrible, especially when acting as an ambassador for your country, but I feel the punishment did not fit the crime. He didn’t tell everyone what happened, his mom did and then he was forced into a precarious situation.  Now instead of being remembered for being one of the best and most decorated swimmers in the world, he’s that swimmer who lied in Rio. Everyone on social media ganged up on Ryan, judging him harshly for making a choice we might have made in that situation. It’s hard to know what you would have done until you’re in that exact situation.

It’s so easy to be anonymous on Facebook. Just yesterday I was scrolling through my newsfeed and I saw a news article about a celebrity speaking out against Trump. A person I know personally and love commented on the article in a very startling and vulgar way. It made me very sad. I know my friend would never speak to someone like that in person. Not in a million years, but on Facebook, it’s okay. I have other friends, people I love mind you, who constantly pummel Facebook with political posts that judge the current administration harshly. Although I don’t agree with most anything Trump says or does, he’s not even being given a chance to say or do anything. He is constantly met with a mob of folks ready to burn his house down. And then there’s an equally angry mob of Trump supporters who will burn everyone else’s houses down. It’s a constant ping pong match on social media that I’m tired of looking at.

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You may be thinking that I should just stop logging onto to Facebook. You’re probably right, but like you I am addicted to it. It’s something to do while I’m bored. I like hearing from my friends that they like my writing or my band’s video. I like seeing pics of people’s dogs and cats doing silly things. I try to scan past the negative and rejoice in the positive. I’ll listen to the news in my car and watch on TV when I get home. I’m not looking to be totally ignorant of the world’s events, but I can’t rely on Facebook as my sole and correct news source. I can’t join that angry mob. I want to hear every side of the story and make my own conclusions. I’m not going to demand that accountants resign from their jobs for making a mistake. I’m not going to sign a petition to ban Ryan Lochte from swimming for the rest of his life. I’m not going to take on your political crusades because you think I should.

What I’m getting at here is that you should think for yourself. I certainly encourage you to share your thoughts and views with others and then listen to their thoughts and views. But do it in person. Go to a town hall in your neighborhood and speak your mind. Let your voice be heard by the people who need to hear it.  But, before you speak, take some time to carefully consider your position. Did you gather all of the facts about the story? Did you put yourself in the same situation and think about what you would have done?  Can you forgive another human person? Does this issue greatly affect the outcome of your life? How about a little less judging and yelling and a little more compassion and thoughtfulness? Also, please do some research and check your facts BEFORE you share and rant.

And some pictures of your cat would be appreciated.

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Give Yourself a Break…Election 2016

Greetings Friends,

I wanted to write you all a quick letter because I have something to say that I feel might help one or a few of you. I tend to stay away from politics. As you know it’s a very hot topic right now and it stirs passion and high emotions for a lot of us.  That being said…

Scrolling through my Facebook page today I see a lot of people who are angry, sad, confused and scared. Not everyone feels this way, certainly, and that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their own choice. I am comforted by the words of Barack Obama as he speaks of tolerance and acceptance and unity. He is so eloquent and I will miss him come January. I hope he will continue to lead with dignity and hope.

Here is what I want to tell you. Are you paying attention?

You need to disengage for awhile.  Look away.

I spent a long time this morning pouring through Facebook reading article after article about the election. I was consumed and couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t even focus on the work I was supposed to be doing.

I’m not saying you can’t feel sad or angry. You sure can, but you need to take a break. Pull yourself away from the computer or the TV just for a short time. 30 minutes. Go outside, look at the sun. Watch a bird fly. Take your dog for a walk.

I decided to listen to some music. I picked a song that reminded me how much I love music and how much I love my husband. Then I got to thinking about how much I love my family. No election can take those things away from me.  While listening and writing this to you, I feel like a person again. I’m breathing.  I’m celebrating creativity and love.  My heart is full and I am grateful.

Please, take a break today.

Sending my love to all of you…pass it on.

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Cats Are Jerks — You Need One

Cat are jerks. Although I can’t dispute that fact, I think cats are funny jerks with weird and very distinct personalities. Most people favor a dog for a pet. They are loyal, fun to play with and they eat their own poo. Nice. My cat Sadie is 13 years old and I have enjoyed every single year of those nine lives. I rescued her from a shelter when she was 2. She had been picked up by the police and it was obvious she had been in a brawl, because part of her ear was missing. I was thinking about adopting a monster of a cat called Moose, but Sadie decided otherwise. She’s my furry pal. Life just wouldn’t be the same without cat fur all over my clothes and usually in my mouth, too. Here are 5 excellent reasons to consider adopting a cat:

Want to go away for the weekend? Guess what? Your cat can stay home alone for a day or two. No kennel needed. And you can eliminate your friends and family going through your stuff while you’re gone. Can you feed my cat and sift through my personal items while you’re at it? That’d be great…thanks.

dresser-cat

 

Cats LOVE to sleep. Who doesn’t love sleeping? Here’s an activity that you can do together. Maybe you could compete to see who’s better at sleeping. I doubt you’ll win.

yawning-cat

 

Who let their dog out at 5am? A person who was tired of hearing said dog bark and bark. Now the whole neighborhood can enjoy Fido’s rant. Ever hear a cat barking non-stop? You haven’t, because for the most part indoor cats are pretty quiet. A few meows, but c’mon that’s so cute!

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When it’s freezing cold outside, you still have to walk your dog. Every single day. And probably more than once, I’m told. Cats don’t want to stand in the snow at 7am. See #2.

snow-cat

 

One of the best things about a cat is that they want to sit with you and be pet. Dogs want to jump and play, but a cat will calmly sit in your lap and watch a movie with you. They are warm and soft and usually refrain from eating your ice cream when you walk away

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There are so many cats and kittens in shelters. According to the ASPCA, 3.4 cats are put into animal shelters every year. Sadly, 1.4 million are euthanized. Just like dogs, cats have different personalities. You can find a cat that is high energy or more laid-back. Choose a playful kitten and watch them grow or choose a sweet older cat who just wants a chance to love you.

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My Sadie Cat

Everyone Says Hi

It’s so weird to me that when someone we love dies, the world just keeps moving. I feel like everything should stop while we all process the sad news, but it simply doesn’t work that way. Monday morning when I found out David Bowie had passed away I felt like I had been punched in the stomach by a schoolyard bully. He took my lunch money, too. I was left alone by the monkey bars with tears in my eyes. During the weekly staff meeting, I reported that I was sad. A few of my co-workers said they thought of me right away when they heard the news, while other co-workers looked at me like I was a crazy person. Well, crazier than usual. They just don’t get it.

I have learned that some people just don’t give a shit about music. I have read that “pop music of today is disposable.” Have you listened to what’s popular today? A lot of repetition…verse and chorus sound the same…weird topics about nothing at all. No wonder we only hear it in the background while we’re twerking in the club and then walk away, discarding the wasted tracks. It’s like a deep kiss from a sultry lover followed up by a stinging backhand slap to the face. I’m not saying music can’t be fun. There’s a time and a place for upbeat, dance/pop/country music that regales a summer evening at the beach drinking beer out of a plastic cup with one’s friends. But the non-stop, constant barrage of this stuff is enough to make an authentic music lover sad.

That being said, it’s easy to see why many people don’t care about music. I guess I was lucky that I grew up in a family that thrived on creativity. My Mom is a wonderful writer and can make up funny stories. Although she claims to have no musical ability, she is above and beyond, a music supporter. In a previous blog I told you about my brother and me listening to my Mom’s 45’s from the magical striped box in the closet. Paul and I listened to her records before we listened to anything we picked. The Beatles, The Doors, Neil Diamond, John Denver, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Herman’s Hermits…we heard them first through Mom. And you know my brother Paul is about the most musical person I know. (See previous blogs.) He is also the biggest David Bowie fan I know. I may have only been a casual Bowie fan, if not for Paul. Luckily, Paul encouraged me to listen beyond “China Girl” and “Let’s Dance” to hear what Bowie was really about.

And what was Bowie really about, you ask? He was about life. He was a lover and a fighter. He was happy and he was angry. He was one of us. He wasn’t perfect or conventionally beautiful. He wrote and sang about what we all were living every single day. He showed us that it was cool to be different. It was okay to love yourself, no matter what. Fuck what those other people say!

Although it’s sad to see him go, we are all so lucky to be able to share in his life. And just think of all the people after us who will continue to celebrate his catalog of creation. It’s special to us because we were here when it happened and that’s why we are so shocked and sad. He told us to be heroes and now we have to be. We have to keep talking about music and art and fashion and innovation. Let’s inspire each other just like Bowie inspired us. Those people who don’t care about music…or just don’t understand it, leave them be. Wish them well and put on your headphones. You get it. Remember, you’re not alone. There are others just like you and we accept you just as you are, because that’s how it’s supposed to be. ‘Don’t stay in a sad place where no one cares how you are. Everyone says hi.’

 One time with me….Awwwww….WHAM, BAM THANK YOU MA’AM!!!!!!!

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Beautiful animation by Helen Green

Is This Cup Half Empty? (Dedicated to Ray North)

I’ve been struggling with a thought lately. Here’s my question: Am I living life to the fullest? What does that even mean? I hear people talk about it all the time, but who actually does it? I asked some of my friends and family what they thought.

I have a friend at work. Yeah, can you believe that? His name is Joe. He is a writer. Not only is he a genuinely nice person, but he makes me laugh every day. He’s one of those people that just makes the day better. You can give Joe the most boring topic and he will think of something clever to write about it. He self-published a children’s book, They Don’t Make Books About Uncles and he’s working on a play that I know will be successful…he’s just that kind of guy. Although I’ve only known Joe for a short time, I very much admire him and I know that he has changed my life for the better. He has inspired and encouraged me to write and create and try. That being said, I asked Joe what it means to live life to the fullest. We have the same job and it’s not always glamorous. Yes, we write and create, but there are rules and guidelines to follow and it can get monotonous and frustrating. It’s not always easy to be a creative type in the corporate world. Joe told me that it’s hard to live every moment to the fullest, but it’s what you make of the good things that happen. He said we have to fully enjoy the successes and the happy times. I happen to know that Joe’s family and friends are very important to him and he works to cultivate those relationships. Immerse yourself in the great moments and don’t worry about the small, mundane stuff. Maybe work is just what you have to do to get to the next great moment. I think Joe is on to something. He seems like a happy person to me.

Jeanne and Joe

I also discussed this topic with Steve. You all remember Steve; he’s my husband. You may remember him from such blogs as…you get it. I asked, “Steve, are you living life to the fullest?” He said, “Well, I sure am busy.” That’s not what I meant and I’m sure he knew that. Steve’s passion is music and sound. I believe that when he’s playing music or recording, he is doing what he loves most. In those moments, he is living life to the fullest. In our discussion, we talked about how it may be hard to live life to the fullest when you have to worry about bills and money. One cannot simply travel and take time out to write a novel or produce an album. How can a person be happy when he is hungry or homeless? Well, that’s an interesting thought. Is it only rich people who can really take advantage of a full life?

Jeanne and Steve

I have been listening to a book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic. In this book, Gilbert talks about living a creative life. It’s a choice one makes to pursue their creative endeavors in a responsible and mature way. She explains that creating is free. It’s for the rich and the poor. She mentions that if only the rich could create, the world would surely be a boring place. She cautions her listeners/readers to never make the artistic craft a burden. Work at it because you love it. Don’t do it to impress other people or even make a living. Do it for yourself; to make you happy. She describes a different way of thinking about being creative and talks about her path as a writer and novelist. She wrote Eat, Pray, Love for herself to work through her own life issues. It just happened to resound with millions of readers. (If you’re a creative type, I would highly recommend listening to or reading “Big Magic.”)

While I’m tossing all of these ideas around in my head, something sad happened. One of my brother’s best friends from high school, Ray North has been battling cancer for awhile. After a brave fight, Ray passed away on November 10th. My brother flew to Texas where Ray was getting treatment to be with him and to ultimately say goodbye. I hadn’t seen Ray since I was in high school. We went to the same school, but my brother and Ray graduated the year before I started. Basically, I knew Ray through Paul. Since I always thought my brother was pretty cool, I knew that Ray was cool, too. He was really cute, he could sing, he was in marching band and he had this killer smile. Oh, and he wasn’t rude to me, his friend’s stupid kid sister. Paul recently talked about when he walked into his new high school as a sophomore, he was very nervous. Ray was one of the first people to talk to Paul and made him feel welcome, including Paul in the “cool crowd.” That’s pretty powerful stuff. That’s a gift you never forget about.

At Ray’s wake and funeral I learned even more about him. He has a lovely family. A beautiful wife and four happy kids. Paul and his friend Eric, (also one of Ray’s good friends from high school,) made a slideshow about Ray. In every picture Ray’s smile shone. There were pictures of Ray goofing around with his family growing up and then enjoying happy moments with his wife and kids. I am not kidding, at Ray’s funeral, the church was packed. Not one empty seat. And it was a pretty big church. I was astounded at all of the lives Ray had touched at church, at work, through Scouting, or just within the community. Everyone in that huge room loved Ray. He wasn’t the type of guy you sorta liked. You could only love Ray. One quote from the homily stuck with me. It’s a quote from Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts.

“No one can pass through life, any more than he can pass through a bit of country, without leaving tracks behind, and those tracks may often be helpful to those coming after him in finding their way.”

Every person who spoke was touched by Ray. Ray enriched the lives of others just by being himself. He created a happy life for himself and for those around him. He wasn’t rich and he wasn’t famous, but without a doubt, he lived life to the fullest.

I’m not sure what got me thinking about living life to the fullest, but God or the cosmos, or whatever you believe in, brought me an example when I needed one. So, I’ll take a dash of Joe, a pinch of Steve, a generous portion of Elizabeth Gilbert and mix it all up with Ray to fashion my own life from now on. It’s probably not something I will be good at every day, but at least I have some wise and trustworthy guides to lead the way. I wish I could tell you exactly what it means to live life to the fullest, but I’m not still not entirely sure what it means. I think it’s a different story for all of us. It’s about finding contentment and creativity inside of yourself, loving everyone as hard as you can and ultimately leaving behind a legacy of infectious joy. Also, if you have a killer smile, that could really help.

Ray

Keep Your Pants On, It’s Going to be Alright!

One of the first things people ask when you get married is, “when are you going to have kids?” And then as time goes on people ask, “Why don’t you have any kids?” I’ve read several blogs about single or married women who don’t have kids. They come across as proud or belligerent about not having kids. Like they are taking some stance against society or something. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to not have children. Yep, it’s really okay. You may have guessed that I don’t have kids. I won’t bore you with the reasons why, but it’s not a decision I made lightly. Having a kid is a huge responsibility. It seems that many people aren’t up for the task. Leaving small children in a hot car or abusing them so badly that they are not able to function with other people ever again. It’s sad. You don’t have to be smart or rich or responsible to have one baby or ten babies.

That being said, I’d like to talk about love. If you’re a non-mom, you’ll be able to relate to this statement. “You just can’t understand what it’s like to love unless you have your own child.” Yes, people have said it to me and I’ve read it countless times. “You wouldn’t understand, you don’t have kids.” That’s another good one. People don’t necessarily mean any harm when they say this, they just aren’t thinking past their own lives. What I am proposing is that a person without children, including me, is more than capable of experiencing real and profound love. I’m talking about love that you feel deep within your core. Feelings that twist your stomach and fill your soul with buzzing currents of electricity. Oh, you want examples? Don’t worry, I’ve come prepared. Brace yourself for three tales of profound love.

My first story is about my brother Paul. Paul and I lived together in our 20s. I think we lived together for about 7 years. We lived in an awful place that wasn’t very safe. We didn’t have heat in the winter or AC in the summer. Oh, I forgot to mention the bathroom ceiling caved in and water just poured out of it for years. I’m not exaggerating here. Our landlord, John Not-Coola was a very awkward man who had no sense of humor and not a compassionate bone in his body. And he smelled funny. Anyway, we finally got our “shit” together and moved to a better place. Soon after, Paul got a great job…in South Carolina. What? So, we prepared for Paul to move away. Far away. We got a small group together and drove Paul to South Carolina in two cars. It’s about a 13-hour drive. We had fun getting Paul’s new apartment together, but then it was time for me to go home. Everyone else went down to the car and it was just me and Paul. My eyes filled with tears and I told Paul I was really sad to leave him there. He said he knew and we would be okay. It broke my heart to walk away, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Luckily, we spent a lot of time on the phone and still had a blast together. That was before Facebook and all that, so we still talked to people on the phone back then, kids. I still missed him every day. My best friend. A few years later, Paul moved back home. Yay! I’m sure it’s because he couldn’t stand to be without me. I’m pretty special, you know.

Grab a tissue, here’s the next one. You may remember from a previous post that I had major surgery about 5 years ago. I won’t gross you out with the details, because it is, in fact, pretty gross. I was scared out of my mind. I was pretty convinced that I was going to die. Spoiler alert: I made it. Anyway, Steve drove me to the hospital bright and early that day. He made sure to have some fun songs playing in the car to lighten the mood. My Mom met us at the hospital and I was soon led away to the “back” to prepare. Before I walked away, I handed Steve the ring he bought me and asked him to hang on to it. After waiting around for a torturous amount of time, it was finally time to be wheeled back into surgery. My Mom said something comforting to me about Jesus, which was nice, while the tears were just pouring out of my eyes…again. I thought that would be the last time I saw my Mom or Steve. I remember someone, (I later found out it was my doctor) saying that my turtle tattoo was really cute. “Count backwards from 99.” I thought, “99, 98…” and then I was waking up from surgery. Oh my gosh, I made it! The epidural didn’t take, so I was in a lot of pain. They wouldn’t release me to a hospital room until the pain subsided a bit. About two hours later, I was moved to a room. I was told my Mom and boyfriend were on their way up to see me. I didn’t realize they had actually been waiting for a total of about 8 hours. My Mom walked in the room first and I was so happy to see her! Steve walked in behind her and the tears started again. I was overwhelmed with relief and love. “I’m so happy to see you,” I said. He gave me a big smile and I saw his eyes fill up, too. That feeling was intense. It was happy, sad and almost too much to bear. I will never forget that moment and exactly what it felt like.IMG_0278

One more story to share with you. Of course it’s about my Mom. Several years ago, as I was going through a divorce, my Mom was going through cancer treatment. Mom wasn’t too thrilled with me at the time. Divorce is a sensitive topic in our family. It seems like more and more people are dealing with cancer lately, so maybe many of you can relate or have similar stories. I can still remember my Mom telling me over the phone that she had cancer. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My Mom can’t have cancer, that doesn’t make sense. First came surgery to remove the tumor. It was outpatient and she was pretty much fine. We even laughed together that day. At that time, she still looked like herself. She didn’t look sick at all. What really makes you sick is the chemo. That’s when your skin turns grey and your face is bloated and you lose your hair. Seeing my Mom look like that was heart-breaking. Definitely an image that is burned into my mind forever. You’re not supposed to drive yourself to chemo, so I drove my Mom. They would take her into a room where other people were receiving chemo, too. It took a couple of hours, so I would usually get some rest, as her appointments were early in the morning and I worked nights. Then I would pick her up afterwards. She would be okay and we’d go get some lunch. There was one time in particular I’d like to tell you about when she wasn’t okay. I dropped Mom off and went home to nap. I got a call to come back because Mom was really upset. I got there as fast as I could and found my poor Mom pale as a ghost and crying hysterically. She was in a little room by herself off of the main room. I remember the windows were up high and I could see the sun and some purple flowers someone had planted near a tree. I held my Mom’s hand and she told me a doctor told her what her chances for a full recovery would be. My stomach lurched as I waited for the number: 70%. I guess some doctors feel that full disclosure is a good idea, but maybe you wait until someone isn’t hooked up to poisonous chemicals and feeling as low as possible. Mom was already scared, but that just pushed her over the edge into terrified. I told her 70% seemed pretty good to me as we all have a 50/50 chance of making it through today. You just never know what life can bring on any given day. Plus, it’s just a number, not a representation of who she actually is. I told her I loved her and she wasn’t alone. A nice nurse brought her some crackers and juice and Mom calmed down. She told me she was glad I was there and that ignited my heart. As I mentioned, things were a little tense between us at the time, so hearing my Mom say that meant so much to me. “I’m glad I’m here too.” I think of this moment often as it was almost like time stopped during that 30 minute exchange. We were two women helping each other through a horrible moment with real love and compassion. It’s a memory I hold dear. After chemo and radiation, my Mom has been cancer-free. That’s a gift I never take for granted.IMG_0004

What I’m trying to say here is that we shouldn’t tell others what they can or cannot understand. Just because a woman or man doesn’t have kids doesn’t mean they don’t “get it.” Certainly, people with kids have a very different life experience that is filled with love, happiness, anger, chaos, total satisfaction and heavy disappointment. Oh, wait…that sounds like my life, too. And everyone else’s life. Bottom line: we’re all on this planet together and we are all capable of giving and receiving love no matter what sort of packaging it presents itself. A brother, a boyfriend, a Mom, a cat, a baby, an aunt or uncle…it’s all love and it can all be impactful and profound. And there aren’t any diapers to change, nor spaghetti in your hair.

My Buddy and Me

Over the years, many people have asked me who my musical influences are. I never have a good answer at the ready. Of course there are musicians I admire greatly, but as a singer, I can’t say I try to sound like any one particular person. Recently, I was thinking about this question again and I finally thought of a good answer. I would have to say that my first and most important musical influence in my life was my brother Paul.

Back when we were kids we shared a Fisher-Price plastic record player. It played the big records and the little records. It was a portable player that we could listen to upstairs in our own rooms. Most of the time the player resided in Paul’s room because he was older and could punch harder. (Of course my brother wasn’t punching a little kid; he waited until I got older.) We had a few records of our own like The Muppet Show, Pac-Man Fever and Strawberry Shortcake. Big surprise, Strawberry was my favorite. I used to practice my tap dancing to her rousing version of “New York, New York.” C’mon! I was a little kid!

The real treasures were my Mom’s albums. The first time I heard The Beatles was on that record player. My Mom also had the Broadway cast recording of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” By the time I was 10, I could sing that whole musical. We usually skipped over the death scenes though, as they are a bit much for a little kid. They still freak me out. (Happy Easter, Everybody!)

And then there was the red and white striped box. One of the best, most magical boxes in existence. This plastic coated box had a handle on the top and a hinged closure on the front and was full of 45’s. We played every record in that box from The Beatles to Elvis to The Doors to The Singing Nuns. There was even a version of “The Percolator” which always cracked me up. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, we would carefully carry the box into Paul’s room and look at them all. “Ooh, Paul! Play this one next!” And he would. On very special occasions, probably when Paul was bored out of his mind, he would tell me to gather my favorite stuffed animals and he would make my “friends” dance and sing to the records. Boy, was that cool. He could always make me laugh. Is it dusty in here? I think there’s something in my eye. Hold on.

Well, times, tastes and technology moved on as we grew. Pretty soon cassettes were all the rage. Paul got a cassette/radio boombox. I was not allowed to touch it. My brother, being the music lover that he is, amassed a large quantity of cassettes from Motley Crue to Prince and the Revolution to Missing Persons. He even had a Joe Piscopo comedy album that we thought was hilarious as young kids. (It’s not funny anymore, Joe. Write some new material!) By this time, Paul was a little too cool, or so he thought, to be hanging out with his little kid sister. Silver lining: I got the record player in my room. I would spend hours singing and dancing with Strawberry or The Muppets.

Even as an older kid, Paul would get bored and agree to hang out with me for the afternoon. We didn’t play Monopoly or Scrabble like the other kids, we played Star Search. For those of you not familiar with the 80’s TV show, Ed McMahon hosted a talent competition every week. Singers, dancers, comedians and “spokesmodels” would compete for the highest score of 4-stars. The winner would return week after week to defend their “champion” status. It was a pretty popular show. Here’s how you play the Paul and Jeanne home version: First, pick a song you’d like to perform. Weird Al was always a popular choice, but any song we owned would do. Next, take some time to cultivate your performance. As a dancer, I had a lot of dance costume remnants lying around, so it was easy to put together a unique, silly costume. The performer will also be judged on lip-sync and dance capabilities, so you’d better be good! I don’t remember anyone actually winning the competition, but we put on a good show.

As we got older, Paul and I spent less time together. We had busy lives with band, choir, theater shows, work, school and friends. Luckily, there was always time to watch TV. Maybe we couldn’t agree on a show or movie to watch, but MTV was an option everyone could agree on. We could watch videos for hours. It was so cool to see what our favorite bands looked like. Sometimes when I hear an 80’s song, I’ll ask Paul if he remembers watching the “World Premiere” of that video on MTV. Of course he remembers.

As we became adults we started to attend concerts together. We’ve seen some pretty great and weird shows. Here are a few: Prince, Billy Joel, Korn, Q101’s Twisted 8, Nine Inch Nails, Art of Noise, 311, The Stooges, Henry Rollins, Van Halen, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails again, Bauhaus, Moby…I’m sure there’s more. Ask Paul the next time you see him. Our next show together this June is Weird Al at the Chicago Theater. Anyway, even when we can’t attend a show together, we still share one song over the phone. When I went to see Duran Duran I asked Paul what song he’d like to hear. I can’t remember which song he picked, but he heard “Hungry Like the Wolf.” He didn’t really hear Duran Duran singing it, he heard me screaming the song with thousands of other people, through my phone. Whatever the show, Paul gets a call. We get a good laugh about it later.

Paul and I are still passionate about music. He is a very talented trumpet player and DJ and I am the singer of my band, Puddin’ Head. Music is a major part of both of our lives. If my car is running, there is music on at all times. I’m sure it’s the same in Paul’s car. Thank God for music devices that hold thousands of songs and albums. I’ve helped Paul move a few times and all those CDs are heavy! I’ve got a lot, too, but I’ll never have as much as Paul. He is a true celebrator of music. I would believe that he’s heard almost every song at least once. Okay, maybe not every song, but pretty close. I doubt I would be so passionate about music today if it weren’t for Paul. He and my Mom gave me an invaluable gift in the form of music and creativity all those years ago. I can’t imagine my life without that record player, that striped box of records…or my brother.

So, Paul….how ‘bout another game of Star Search?

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