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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

His music still plays, and his spirit still shines

Elliott Smith, singer songwriter extraordinaire by many people’s standards, would have been 44 today, had he not died a much too early death in October of 2003. After his passing, a good share of his notoriety came not due to the amazing music he created, but by the manner of his death, and the sometimes dysfunctional life he led as he dealt with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression.

But those who were close to him knew the fullness of his generosity, his great sense of humor, his compassion, and the other endearing qualities that inspired his family and friends to honor him with a series of four benefit shows in four different cities. They run from August 4th to August 10th and are the brainchild of Ashley Welch, Elliott’s younger sister, who decided to pay tribute to all the great things about her brother that made him her “hero”, as she describes Elliott in Autumn deWilde’s book, Elliott Smith.

One of those great things about Elliott Smith was his generous nature. Elliott was known as one to never turn down a chance to play a benefit show for someone, and before his death he had begun the process to start his own non-profit to help abused children. In this light of his giving so much to others, every show in each city – Portland, OR; Los Angeles; Austin, TX; and New York City – will be donating all the proceeds to a non-profit in that particular city. All the musicians are playing for free, as Elliott inspires so many to share and reach out to others as he did in his lifetime.

Another great thing about Elliott Smith was of course the music, the amazing legacy he left behind, the songbook of an extremely gifted and talented singer and songwriter and troubadour. He is revered by his musical peers, as is evidenced by all who agreed to come out and play these benefit shows for free. Some are more well known than others, but all shared the music with Elliott and shared the joy of music with him.

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the first show, in my city of Portland, a place Elliott called home for a time. He is well loved here, and the energy that night was just one big lovefest of Elliott, of music, of joy. Sweet and touching stories were told about Elliott from his friends, revealing a much more positive side of his life that was often overlooked. The crowd made much of the event a singalong, as the well loved and familiar words and melodies sang out in a loving cacophony.

Many famous musical artists are often memorialized in tribute shows, and that speaks to the success and inspiration of their music. But these shows touting Elliott Smith touched my heart in a different way. It wasn’t just the music we celebrated, but the fact that he used his fame for the greater good, to give back to others less fortunate. And really, Elliott shows us that we can all do this, in our own way; we don’t have to be famous to be angels of generosity. Here’s to you, dear Elliott – thank you for inspiring all of us through your music but most of all through your shining soul.

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

 

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Dog time

I am headed back to Minnesota for a visit in May, and I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, and spending some quality time with them. And besides those lovely souls I am planning to spend time with, I am thoroughly looking forward to some dog time!

I will most certainly be seeing my daughter and son-in-law’s two dogs, Chopper and Boe Boe, as well as my son’s dog, named Buster, and I am making sure to pencil in time to see “my girl”, my collie named Maddie who I had to leave behind with my ex-husband when I moved to Portland. And sadly, I will also be sure to visit the grave site of my other dog, Kirby the lovable cocker spaniel, who recently passed away after a happy and fulfilled dog life of twelve years.

When I went back for a Christmas visit in December of 2011, I stayed at my daughter and future son-in-law’s home for most of that time. So I got to know Chopper and Boe Boe quite well, and was inspired by their day to day antics enough to write a poem about each of them. Boe Boe is the elder one of the dog household; he is a mellow mutt who had the run of the place until the little guy came around. And Chopper, with his boundless Jack Russell terrier energy is about as different from Boe Boe as night from day. But they have learned to love each other, with Boe Boe accepting Chopper into the family, and helping to breathe maybe a bit more life into the old boy.

Those of us who are blessed to experience the love of a pet, be it dog or cat or even a goldfish, know of the special bond that ensues from such a relationship. I look forward to having some very special dog time when I go for my visit in May; as I once more get to experience some unconditional love in the way that only our pets can bring.

Chopper and Boe Boe

Chopper and Boe Boe

 

 

My name is Boe Boe

I was here first

Before the little one

But it doesn’t matter

I let him think he is cuter than me

He wants to play

As puppies do

He gnaws on my neck

Thinking I will accept

his invitation to run and play

But I like to rest these days

I had my time of

playing and puppy-ness

So when the little one runs in circles

I curl in a ball and watch

And remember my days of such behavior

I am Chopper

My house is an obstacle course

I jump onto the couch

I am tiny, like a cat

So I run along the back of it

Then onto the other couch

And I leap!

I fly through the air to the chair

A perfect landing!

I do not require a net

I am nimble – a jumper of great heights!

Then I dig in the toy box

And take out many toys

And leave them

Later I will take out more toys

And leave those also

Then for fun

I run in and out of my kennel

But I don’t stay in there too long

Because sometimes they lock the door!

I hear a noise outside

Or is it in my head?

It doesn’t matter

I bark anyway!

All of this is very tiring

I finally rest

Until 5 a.m. – at the very latest!

Then it is time to get up

And run the obstacle course again

Kirby, now in Doggie Heaven

Kirby, now in Doggie Heaven

 

 

Memories of Kirby

 

A white ball of fluff

Tiny and nestled in a laundry basket

Comes home to join our family

The roly-poly puppy

Grows into a handsome dog

Who never quite learns to enjoy

Being bathed or groomed

But he behaves like a gentleman

So kind to all who care for him

 

If you happened to say the word “walk”

Be prepared to grab the leash

He always enjoyed the forays and adventures

Into the woods and down the roads

Seeming to find great pleasure

In scaring up a bird or two

 

Thoughts of food filled his mind

Constantly

His tastes ranging

From potato peelings

To rabbit poop

And anything in between

 

Not content to lie on the floor

Our furniture was his furniture

Our bed was his bed

Snuggling close at night

Sharing a pillow

Sharing love

 

And his body aged

As all bodies do

Now he romps once more

Seeing clearly, running freely

Uninhibited, unencumbered

He left us but left his love

And sweet memories of Kirby

Maddie girl

Maddie girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spreading joy through a box of cookies

I came upon them again, the eager young faces, asking me as I passed by if I would like to buy some cookies. The past couple of times I have given them a quick smile, saying “no thank you”, and kept on my way. But this time I thought oh, what the heck, I have some cash on me and besides, who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies?

It’s always been a dilemma, making the choice between the ever popular Thin Mints, or maybe the yummy Samoas with the great combination of caramel and coconut, or should I get my personal favorite, the tangy lemon cookie they call Lemonades? What to do, what to do! As I listened to the three giggly girls giving me their best sales pitches for each cookie, I made a final decision to go with the Thin Mints, having a plan in mind as to what to do with them (besides just eating them!)

I handed one of the girls the only cash I had, a twenty dollar bill, and smiled at their squirrely laughter as they oh so slowly counted out my change. Moms were close at hand, making sure that the money end of things was handled correctly, and they happily thanked me for my cookie purchase. And bless her heart, the girl who handed my change back to me did exactly what I do with any cash I have in my billfold – she placed all the bills facing in the same direction – someone after my own obsessive/compulsive heart!

Once I got to the library for my weekly volunteer shift, I was able to put my Girl Scout cookie plan into action. I had decided that instead of once again eating the treats in the break room that all the others have brought before, I would be the one this time to make a contribution. And oh, the joy it brought! My choice of Thin Mints was heartily endorsed by Matt, one of the younger employees who is a bit on the shy side. But his face literally lit up when he asked, “Who brought the cookies?” When I told him I did, he opened up with a smile and told me of his passion for Thin Mints that was completely unexpected.

How fun to have a simple box of cookies elicit such joy; from the young girls who were so eager to sell them, to their mom’s grateful thank-yous for supporting their daughters in this endeavor, to the beaming face of Matt as he enjoyed an unexpected treat that day.

And as I was getting ready to go home, I heard a quiet voice in the break room, asking me if I was going to take the cookies home with me. “No, I’m leaving them here,” I told Matt, who I swear actually breathed a sigh of relief. And he promised me with a sheepish grin that he would try very hard to leave some cookies for the others to enjoy.

My new title, Professional Volunteer

I was volunteering at my neighborhood library this morning, talking with one of the staff who I hadn’t met before, and telling her about my retired life and what I do to fill my time. “Oh, so you’re a professional volunteer!” she proclaimed. And I had to thank her for giving me such a title, it really spells out who I am now – how perfect, yes, a professional volunteer.

I can see why she would say that, as my days now are pleasantly filled with helping out in a number of places. I do have Monday as a “free day”, walking in the morning with a friend and then doing whatever I please for the rest of the day. Then comes Tuesday, and I am presently helping  an older gentleman clear out all he has accumulated over his 70 years, trying to make more room in the studio apartment he now lives in. Wednesday and Thursday mornings I take a very short walk across the street to the grocery store, where I help out as a shopper for a non-profit called Store To Door, a place that provides grocery shopping service and delivery for those unable to do so. Friday is also another day of helping a senior, this time being a visitor and friendly face to an elderly woman, who just wants some company to help stave off the loneliness of growing older. Saturday is usually another free day, except for every third Saturday when I help with the neighborhood clean-up. Then I end my week by helping out on Sundays mornings at the local library. And in between all this are other one time opportunities to help here and there, for all kinds of different places and reasons.

Looking at all of that, I can see why I was bestowed with such a title; yes, it seems like it is an occupation in itself, all the volunteering I do now. But this is exactly what I have been reaching for, since I retired and even before that, when I would imagine all the wonderful ways I could help people if I just had the time. Well, now I have the time and I seem to have found some wonderful ways to help. This truly is my work now, even though I don’t get paid with a paycheck. Instead, I am able to pay forward the gift of time I have been given, when I was able to retire early at age 50 after a long but burned out at the end career in healthcare. I love my new job title, and life is very good working as a professional volunteer.

Happy Valentine’s Day – to me!

Ah, Valentine’s Day – it is by far my favorite holiday, a day devoted to love! What could be better than that? And even though I am divorced and happily single, I am still able to celebrate this holiday by showering myself with gifts of love. Because is it said, and I have learned this firsthand, that if we cannot first find love for ourselves, how can we truly love another?

So today I made a stop at Trader Joe’s, to buy a couple of Valentine’s gifts from me to me! First, a bottle of wine, something I have not splurged on for quite some time. Then I bought a bunch of tulips, one of my favorite flowers, to bring some color to my home during the grey Portland days we have been having. I was going to buy myself a treat of the very sugary type, a mini carrot cake I had seen there before, but sadly they were all out. No worries, as we say here in Portland, I’ll just eat up the chocolates my dear friend from Minnesota sent.

And the chocolates made me think of my wonderful friends, and friendship, just another flavor of love that is often overlooked on this day we tend to equate with romantic love only. But love is a many splendored thing, to borrow a line, and I am going to make sure today that part of that splendor on this holiday of love is loving who I am.

My pretty tulips

My pretty tulips

 

 

Turning to Mom, no matter how old they are

I got a call from my daughter the other day in the middle of the afternoon, when she should have been hard at work and not calling to chitchat with me. Of course my motherly radar of doom and gloom kicked in as I picked up the phone and saw who was calling. My mind began to run through the endless litany of terrible events that must have happened to her. I tried to be the voice of calm and cheer as I answered the phone and said, “Hi! How are you?” I heard the big sigh and then her reply of, “Not good – I’m sick!” Hopefully she didn’t hear my sigh of relief at her dilemma; not happy that she was sick, but relieved that’s all it was. Oh, the crazy rationale of motherhood!

And the only reason she called, and really quite a heartwarming reason, was to get some good old-fashioned motherly sympathy for her plight of illness. Being recently married, she now has a husband who is there to take care of her and baby her during such times, but it is a mother’s compassion that seems to be the healing balm she wants when she is sick. That’s not to say that men are less effective in taking care of someone in the throes of an illness, but a mother’s touch, even hundreds of miles away, seems to be a special kind of remedy for whatever ails you.

We might think that when our children grow older and start to claim their independence that they will have less of a need for our wise parental guidance. But there are some things about being a mom that will never fade away, no matter what age my children are or how successful they become on their own. My daughter was able to take the reins very nicely and plan her whole wedding herself; my advice from across the country was asked for on occasion, but she really put the whole thing together on her own and did a fantastic job.

But when it comes to dealing with any sickness she may encounter, I am sure to get a phone call, looking for words of advice and words of comfort. It is those times I am reminded that my role as a parent may change throughout my children’s lifetimes, but I will always have the role of Mom, the best comforter of all.

 

Hunting season, with my car instead of a gun

My newly married daughter is already a widow; a hunting widow that is. Her beloved is deep in the throes of hunting season, leaving her alone on recent weekends to traipse after the ever elusive deer with his trusty bow and arrows in hand. And the beauty of hunting with a bow rather than a gun is the extended season offered to the bow hunters. They can keep trying and trying long after the regular deer season has come and gone. And try and try he did, coming home an unhappy hunter in his first few attempts, with no trophy to show for his efforts. That is until last weekend, when he shot an eight point buck (the number having to do with the size of Bambi’s antlers) and he finally comes back home a happy hunter. But fear not, hunting season does not end just because of a successful hunt. No, my son-in-law is leaving right after Thanksgiving dinner to try for more; afflicted with the hunting fever.

And all this talk about hunting and deer brought back the memory of my first deer; that is, the first (and thankfully only) deer I ever hit with my car. I was so unprepared, as I drove home one night after aerobics class, oblivious to the suburban deer that decided to cross the road right in front of my car. And unlike my happy hunter son-in-law, I did not celebrate my first kill. Instead I felt sick inside – I had taken down one of God’s beautiful creatures, and a baby at that! Oh, the horror! Luckily for me, my big boat of a 1977 Impala just ran right over the poor creature, sustaining not a lick of damage except for the deer hide underneath my car that smelled worse and worse as I drove home. After I got home I called the police to tell them what happened, said a prayer so I would be forgiven, and swore that I would always scan the sides of the nighttime road with my “deer eyes”.

But as the years went by, I found that the best laid plans sometimes falter, and I had a few other run-ins with my car vs. nature. There was the goose I hit as it tried to cross the highway with what I’m assuming was its mate; I just wanted to pull the car over and cry. And to add insult to injury, after I got to work and told a co-worker about what happened with the goose, she proceeded to tell me that geese mate for life. Now all I could think about was the widowed goose, the poor little goslings I left without a mother or father, and how I managed to tear a lovely goose family apart.

Then there was the raccoon I almost managed to avoid. I swerved to avoid him on the two lane road in the way that they always tell you not to, but it was late and there was only me on the road at the time. But this poor guy must have been old and he was a bit overweight, even for raccoon standards, and his last minute decision to try and make it across landed him right into my front bumper. And unlike my old Impala, my newer Honda Civic didn’t do so well, and pieces of plastic went flying down the road along with the now very dead raccoon.

But by far the worst roadkill for me was when I hit a hawk. Yes, I hit a hawk that was sitting on the road in the middle of the night eating roadkill. What the hell was he doing there, eating food that was usually left for the crows to pick up, and what happened to his super sharp reflexes that should have had him flying away at the last second, like the crows always did? Maybe he had eaten some tainted meat and was brain addled, but I’ll never know because I killed him! And this really broke my heart, as I have a strong affinity for the raptors. I love to watch them soar in the sky, riding the unseen currents of air. I would always seemed to spot them when I was out walking or even driving, as if we had some sort of connection. And now, I had destroyed one, never to soar again.

I only hope that all those poor creatures I inadvertently killed with my innocent car can forgive me, as they reside in animal Heaven now, safe and sound from the perils of the roadways. And I am happy to be car-free now, no longer driving a weapon of destruction against nature. My hunting season has now ended.

My son-in-law, the happy hunter

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