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And now it’s 2016 …

piano.jpeg

Practicing on my late friend Franchelle Owen’s Wurlitzer piano, which is tucked into our foyer now, is one way I’ll be spending time in 2016. 

Four days into a new year, almost four months into my 60s and about four weeks since I last touched The Lolly Diaries. Time gets away.

But making better use of my time is one of my intentions for this new year. I don’t make resolutions – too stern a word for me and a recipe for failure for many. We need to be kind to ourselves and do the best we can.

Unless we need someone to (metaphorically) crack a whip to keep us going  – sometimes that’s called for, too. And I’ve been known to employ the “fake it until you make it” method repeatedly in my 60 years. Whatever works. We must progress.

Speaking of progress, or, really, lack thereof until now, I also intend to get my ass in gear with the Climate Reality talks. John gave me some no-excuses Christmas gifts – a projector, projector stand and really big portable screen. Seems like eons ago that I was in Miami for training, but only three highly eventful months have passed.

Many, many years have passed since I’ve parked my ass on a piano bench to practice, much less play, but it’s coming back, albeit slowly. I’m so grateful to have a piano to practice on – and I’m very pleased that it belonged to my friend Rhonda’s mother. That makes me smile.

Another thing that makes me smile is that John and I have resumed work on the upstairs. (Hooray!!) Right now it’s him – I don’t build cabinets or do wiring – but we have tile to lay (once we can agree on which tile) and will have cabinets to paint. I’ll share photos, of course.

One last thing for the hopping-back-in-the-saddle post: We kept the youngest grandchild this weekend while the big kids went to the Liberty Bowl (Woo, Pig!). He was a delight and was delighted when we pulled out his big brother’s little Thomas the Tank Engine inflatable bed that I found somewhere about seven years ago.

Probably not as excited as Tess, though. She remembered the tiny bed well and couldn’t wait to join Silas. When I gave him the giant fluffy bear Pop bought for Jude all those years ago, Tess ran and got her giant fluffy stuffed dog and plopped down on the bottom half of the bed.

The wee one was asleep within minutes, all warm and cozy with his bedmate. He even slept through both dogs howling (Tess had moved to her own bed just past the foot of Thomas by then, but Zuzu stood right beside him) when sirens and flashing lights went off at 2:20 a.m.

Thomas bed.jpeg

Tess is still cuddling her stuffed toy a couple of hours after Silas crashed. I did tuck him back in before we left the room, and at the 2:20 howling, he was still nestled tight.

Such is life downtown.

Here’s to 2016. Let’s make it count.

Something to talk about

In April, Mother and I headed off to Italy – Florence and Venice – for her dream 80th birthday trip. What a time we had!

In April, Mother and I headed off to Italy – Florence and Venice – for her dream 80th birthday trip. What a time we had!

The last time I shut The Lolly Diaries, I locked the key, put it under the bed and thought it was time to move on. But since we still have something to talk about, lots of things, I pulled it out, dusted it off, made several changes and decided to carry on.

I’ll address the changes in a sec, but first let me say happy birthday to Bonnie Raitt, who turned 65 today and whose Silver Lining album (from which “Something to Talk About” hails) was playing in the background as John and I grew to love each other.

It’s been a big birthday year and a year of major changes, some good, some awful. Such is life, no?

Anyway, if you’ve followed this blog a while, you might notice the tagline has changed, along with a few other things – of course my five grandchildren are still the lights of my life, but since they’re not old enough to give informed consent to being all over the internet (well, you know what I mean), they won’t be as big a focus in the continuing form of TLD. Some posts are now down and many, many photos have disappeared.

Not every post will have a song link, and I’ve got some other not-ready-for-prime-time writing that’s taking up chunks of my time, so posts might be much shorter and more infrequent. We’ll see how things pan out.

This entry, though, will be a quick catch-up, in photo album form.

Sweet John dropped us off at the airport on his 64th birthday. He was so excited we got to go.

Sweet John dropped us off at the airport on his 64th birthday. He was so excited we got to go.

Mother was such a trouper and good traveler – you'd never know it was her first transcontinental trip or that she was almost 80.

Mother was such a trouper and good traveler – you’d never have known it was her first transcontinental trip or that she was almost 80. This was the day we arrived in Florence. Just a little rest and off we went!

A friendly couple wanted to take our picture at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

A friendly couple wanted to take our picture at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

Mother said she drank more wine on our trip than she had in her whole life (a bit of an exaggeration), but when in Italy, right?

Mother said she drank more wine on our trip than she had in her whole life (a bit of an exaggeration), but when in Italy, right?

In May, our Tessie turned 10! She still loves to cool off in the fountain at the Clinton Library on hot days.

In May, our Tessie turned 10! She still loves to cool off in the fountain at the Clinton Library on hot days.

Hard to believe this is the face of 80, but Mother couldn't have been more happy to have her family around for her birthday party.

Hard to believe this is the face of 80, but Mother couldn’t have been happier to have her family around for her birthday party.

See?

See?

And here are the Cartwright girls on our mother's birthday. We are not twins, nor did we plan to dress alike.

And here are the Cartwright girls on our mother’s birthday. We are not twins, nor did we plan to dress alike.

We've had another dash of progress in our big old house ...

We’ve had another dash of progress in our big old house …

... but we're not there yet. We did have our first party upstairs that included actual walls and real furniture.

… but we’re not there yet. We did have our first party upstairs that included actual walls and real furniture.

In September, I turned 60 – Mother made me a spice cake with penuche frosting, always my fave of her cakes. I bought vegan cupcakes for Silas this time, though Liz and I continue to work on recipes the little guy can enjoy.

In September, I turned 60 – Mother made me a spice cake with penuche frosting, always my fave of her cakes. I bought vegan cupcakes for Silas this time, though Liz and I continue to work on recipes the little guy can enjoy.

My darling Pam, who turned 60 in June (John and I went to Heber for hers), joined us at Mother's for my celebration. We're happy as heck about being older gals.

My darling Pam, who turned 60 in June (John and I went to Heber for her birthday), joined us at Mother’s for my celebration. We’re happy as heck about being older gals – and still being joined at the heart.

Later in September was my trip to Miami (my real 60th birthday present, along with this new lightweight MacBook Pro from John) for three days of Climate Reality Leadership training (much more on that to come later). One of the perks was witnessing the lunar eclipse on Miami Bay.

Later in September was my trip to Miami (my real 60th birthday present, along with this new lightweight MacBook Pro from John) for three days of Climate Reality Leadership training (much more on that to come later). One of the perks was witnessing the lunar eclipse on Miami Bay.

We’ll end this photo album catch-up episode with Zuzu’s fifth birthday in October. Both are girls are hale and hearty, which makes us very happy.

Birthday girl Zuzu is quite serious about photos, but Tess can't help but smile if she sees a camera pointed her way.

Birthday girl Zuzu is quite serious about photos, but Tess can’t help but smile if she sees a camera pointed her way.

Monterey

A little night reading ... my nightstand overflows with books, most of which I'm at least partway into. The guide to Italy and the two Italian language books are part of my preparation for taking Mother on our trip in April.

A little night reading … my nightstand overflows with books, most of which I’m at least partway into. The guide to Italy and the two Italian language books are part of my preparation for taking Mother on our trip in April.

I’ve never been to Monterey, though I’d love to go there, but Eric Burdon and the Animals’ classic description of the Monterey Pop Festival has been playing in my head for days. That’s because I finally let myself jump with both feet into On the Road with Janis Joplin, one of my Christmas presents from John.

janis It’s super fabulous if you’re a Janis fan – and, really, anyone who enjoys reading history and about pop culture should enjoy it. OTRWJJ is no adequately written lightweight memoir; au contraire, this book is a literary delight. John Byrne Cooke, the multi-talented author (he shot most of the photos and also worked on the filming of Monterey Pop, the excellent documentary, among other accomplishments), is a Harvard graduate and excellent writer, as well he should be as the son of well-known British journalist Alastair Cooke and the great-grandnephew of Ralph Waldo Emerson on his mother’s side.

That’s plenty to give him literary cred. But most importantly for this book, he was Janis Joplin’s road manager from shortly after she played the pop festival with Big Brother and the Holding Company until her much too youthful death – a gig that couldn’t have been easy.

For whatever reason, I was mildly (possibly a lot-ly) obsessed with the Monterey Pop Festival as a kid – I was 11 when it happened, but it just seemed so fantastic and fantastical that I was and always have been drawn to anything about it. I got The Animals’ 45 as soon as it came out and played it over and over. So I was in a literary swoon reading Cooke’s descriptions of the event, including the logistics, the crowd, the performances, even the newspaper reviews.

I’d read some nugget aloud to John from the treadmill (where I do lots of my reading) every time he came within earshot. (Side note: I know I drive John crazy at times, but my Myers-Briggs personality inventory says I can’t help sharing things I’m excited about.)

(Side-side note: I was tickled to read in her recent Rolling Stone cover story that my girl Stevie Nicks was reading OTRWJJ, too.)

This is the third book in a reading cycle of sorts. One of the books I took on our recent trip to Washington, a gift from my 10Songsexcellent friend Susan Garner, who thought I’d like it after hearing about it on NPR, is Greil Marcus’s History of Rock ’n‘ Roll in Ten Songs.

Was she ever right! I read the whole book on the return trip. This is not your standard R&R fare – Marcus takes readers on many side roads, tangents and flights of fancy as he discusses the music we love through some of the more obscure songs in the genre.

If you’re serious about music and like books that don’t walk the beaten path, I highly recommend it. I found myself at times thinking of Sarah Vowell’s books, with their sidetracks and tangents.

Telegraph_AvenueAs soon as we got home I started in on Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. If you love Chabon’s writing, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’d love a good, quirky story set in and around an Oakland record store (vinyl, not CDs) – with midwifery, family tensions and coming of age themes – then you’ll enjoy it, too. We’re talking literary fiction, not pop fiction, but Telegraph Avenue is easy to read and hard to put down. And it’s nowhere near Chabon’s best work.

This is my overflow stack on the dresser – and one reason the nightstand is in such disarray. I keep cheating and grabbing books form the overflow stack. I'm an addict; what can I say? But the top two books are for the trip ...

This is my overflow stack on the dresser – and one reason the nightstand is in such disarray. I keep cheating and grabbing books from the overflow stack before finishing the nightstand books. I’m an addict; what can I say? But the top two books are for the trip …

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I was thinking today that perhaps we should have named Zuzu “Shadow” or “Curious Georgeanne.” Wherever you are, there she is, and whatever you’re doing, her nose is in it. She’s precious and has an exuberance for life, but, dang, she can be an obstacle.

But look at that face.

Zuzu takes a break from dogging Mom. She'd been my shadow or stumbling block all morning. But we love her madly.

Zuzu takes a break from dogging Mom. She’d been my shadow or stumbling block all morning. But we love her madly.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

One last note about the damned shower and this will be the end of it, I promise. First, I moved all my stuff back downstairs and took a heavenly debut shower today. Ah, the pleasure of not having to stand on a stool to get wet. It’s just my size, has nice water pressure and the river rock floor is like a foot massage.

So, ultimately, whatever. As Tom said, it’s the little things.

But the “grout” is definitely more concrete than grout – we just can’t figure out what those guys were thinking/doing/hoping to accomplish. I’ve a bit of trepidation over how it will hold up, since it won’t take the sealer (even though said sealer is made for grout OR concrete – but evidently not a mix of the two). And, just to show that I’m not an insane woman, as John said I might appear, one last photo to show where he had to patch some areas with the grout we chose.

The chosen color was “Dark Taupe.” We’ll live with “Driveway Gray,” if it holds together. Fingers crossed.

See?! I told you it was the wrong color and texture. The dark area is the pure grout. OK, ohmmm ... letting it go.

See?! I told you it was the wrong color and texture. The dark area is the pure grout. OK, ohmmm … letting it go.

Tenth avenue freeze out

Brrrr.  We may be having a freeze out (freeze in? I haven’t left the house except to get the paper since Thursday night), but a little Bruce Springsteen always warms my heart and soul – and body because I can’t stand still to “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.

But standing still hasn’t been a problem in my life – busyness is the flavor du jour on an almost daily basis, but I’ve noticed a shift, a burden lifted, a lightness of being of late.

This has been one hell of a year, but I feel it moving on. Maybe that accounts for the lighter feeling. Maybe it’s happiness and recent forward progress. One step at a time, but whatever it is, I hope it holds.

Meanwhile, let me capture a few things from the past few days.

Marie-Noelle left Wednesday, after being fogged out of flying back to Los Angeles on Tuesday. We had a great time just being together, especially father and daughter.

Marie-Noelle and John are checking something out, something that required a slamming of the laptop when I walked over. Hmmmm ...

Marie-Noelle and John are checking something out, something that required a slamming of the laptop when I walked over. Hmmmm ….

Though I wasn’t there to witness the work most days (being at work myself at ESSE Purse Museum, where I do an assortment of things, including writing The ESSEntial Blog), Marie-Noelle assisted her dad with woodwork in the upstairs living quarters.

This film-noirish nighttime shot shows the progress they made on the large oak trim separating the walls from the cathedral ceiling – and around the ancient windows.

This film-noirish nighttime shot shows the progress they made on the large oak trim separating the walls from the cathedral ceiling – and around the ancient windows.

That extra day in Little Rock also allowed her to help John hang the giant light in the foyer, the one I’ve wanted installed for years but that John thought was too big. Marie-Noelle voted with me, and voila! We have a gorgeous new addition.

See, it fits just fine.

See, it fits just fine. Now about that door …

Daytime view from below.

Daytime view from below.

Since Marie-Noelle is back in the states, her leaving wasn’t as bittersweet – and it’s particularly sweet that she refers to coming to visit as “coming home.”

We’ve got three good kids. Yeah, yeah, they’re grown, but they’ll always be our kids.

John and I still feel like kids in many ways, especially when we’re sleeted in and can take the day to decorate the Christmas tree while watching “Love, Actually.” (Yes, I cried again, for a variety of reasons: It’s sweet, it’s sad, Liam Neeson plays a widower with a son and now he is a widower with sons – and Hugh Grant reminds me of Daddy. But I adore it and it makes me feel good overall.)

OK, I decorated. John helped with the lights then left me to it – and declared it perfect even though I slipped most of my Barbie ornaments on once again. He protested in the early years but has given up on the Barbie issue. Someday they’ll be divided between the granddaughters.

We also have many, many German Shepherd ornaments. We don’t do “theme”  or designer trees. Just happy trees.

Many of our ornaments are German Shepherds – this one looks like it was made as a likeness of Zuzu.

Many of our ornaments are German Shepherds – this one looks like it was made as a likeness of Zuzu.

The dogs are always happy about our Christmas tree – they’re like big kids, too. Zuzu was named after a Christmas character, Zuzu in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (possibly my favorite movie of all time and one that always makes me cry), and she was a Christmas present, ostensibly for John but as much for Tess and me, three years ago.

And, oddly, the older Tess gets, the more playful and demanding she is. After eight years of refusing to return anything after catching or chasing it, now she’ll bring a ball or toy back and drop it or toss it to one of us over and over and over – alternating whom she gives it to if we’re both there.

Pretty darn cute, if a bit annoying when we’re trying to watch a movie and she’s doing her “Let’s play; let’s play now” yip over and over. But that face is hard to resist.

Look, Mom, I brought two choices. Will you throw one, huh? Huh? Huh?

Look, Mom, I brought two choices. Will you throw one, huh? Huh? Huh?

Well, rats. I had a whole next section about books, but the clock says otherwise. A party beckons and I’m officially running late. Maybe tomorrow.

Black dog

Saturday, Zuzu turned 2.

Zuzu models her new pink bandana with little monkeys on it. She’s not too sure about the camera, but she still hoots like a chimp at times, so the scarf motif is appropriate.

She’s the black dog of our two shepherds, and that’s how people on the street refer to her, but she’s nowhere near as black as dearly departed Toby (nor is she nearly as big-legged). But she is as big-hearted.

Sure, at 2 she’s a 90-pound puppy who’s scared of her shadow but will bowl me over to dart out the doggie door to see why Tess is barking. She’s the 90-pound puppy who lets the babies use her for a stepladder and Jude use her for a pillow. She stays chill when the babygirls poke her in the ears or eyes or pull her tail.

She hops on our bed whenever she feels like it and will barely make room for the grownups to get in. She’s irritating, irrepressible and irresistible. We love her to pieces. Some day she’ll make a fine adult dog.

Her big day, of course, was cause for celebration and a family get-together. Any excuse will do, but we do love our doggies. We made pumpkin frozen yogurt in my parents’ old ice cream freezer, of which I now have custody. Mother says they probably got it in 1961. Still works like a champ. 

The dogs were super-excited about the frozen yogurt and got their own servings and the babies’ leftovers. They also got chew bones and Zuzu got a new squeaky toy, which Tess insisted on opening for her. Aunt Cathy got her a hot-pink bandana, too.

The dogs and babies wore party hats, at least for a while, and Jude and my great-nephew Nathan blew those annoying birthday kazoo-like/horn thingies and sang Happy Birthday to Zu. It was a madcap madhouse for a while.

The birthday girl snitches Sylvia’s leftovers from lunch.

Tess is a party-hat wearer from way back.

Hey, hey, what can I do?

I’ve been a bad Lolly-diarist lately – life keeps getting away from me. That, plus some crazy hand tendonitis (or whatever it is) has kept me from writing like I should. But, hey, hey, what can I do but start again? I’ll be true. Oh–yeah–oh–ye-ah.

(First, a note to my children: Remember when we saw Page & Plant in 1995 at Barton Coliseum? Can you believe it’s been 17 years?)

Anyway, tomorrow I’m going to get back to the hair episodes, including the one time a haircut made me cry. Sunday I’ll explain how we ended up staying in a castle in Italy. One step at a time gets you back on track, right?

But today, just a note about some of the things that have been keeping me busy.

Jude and I had a sleepover the other night. John was still in Washington, so it was just the four of us, Jude, Tess, Zuzu and me. Tess and Jude slept together all night in the sleeper sofa bed. She always takes her guardianship seriously, but she even allowed cuddle time since Jude’s such a grown up boy now.

Anyway, we watched Boris Karloff’s The Mummy.  Jude dug it, and I dug watching him.

In the opening scene, I recognized something I hadn’t before and said, “Hey, that’s Petra!” Of course ever-curious Jude asked what Petra was, and I explained that it was an ancient city in Jordan, yada, yada. (I also ran to get my iPad to confirm it was Petra. Can’t be wrong when teaching a 6-year-old.)

Later in the movie the characters were talking about being in Egypt, and Jude turned to me and said, “Hey, they said Egypt. You said Petra is in Jordan.”

Smart kid. I explained how the movie was really shot in Petra, Utah and Hollywood. He was cool with that, just wanted to know the facts.

The Mummy is, of course, a fiction movie about a dead man walking.

But sometimes dead men walking aren’t fictional. Last night Julia and I went to hear Ray Krone speak at the Clinton School – what a story and what a guy. He was at one time a “dead man walking,” when he was wrongly imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit and sentenced first to death, then to life.

In Maricopa County in Arizona, an especially bad place to be on death row.

Fortunately, DNA evidence finally prevailed, and now he’s a motivational speaker and member of Witness to Innocence. You can read his story and about the project here. No matter how you feel about the death penalty, you’ll be moved. I cried hearing him tell it. Again, what a guy.

His Clinton School talk will show up here, though it’s not posted yet. If you’ve never been to a Clinton School lecture/talk/panel discussion, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s a joy to live in a city with such fabulous free entertainment/edification opportunities. Thank you, Bill. Thank you, Skip and Nikolai.

That’s all right, mama

I’m trying to take lessons about life from my dogs.They really have the best ideas. Every day is the best day, everything is exciting. Beds are for relaxing on (hah, that won’t happen for me, but one can aspire), sidewalks are for walking and the sun if for basking in. Things are really all right.

Tess and Zuzu know how to have fun.

Life if good! Life is great! Everything is wonderful. Live in the present. Stay in the now. C’mon, Mom, let’s play!!

Zuzu has learned to unplug my laptop if I’m working too hard. Pay attention to me, to me, to me. Let’s play, let’s play, let’s play.

Can’t always do that, in the real world, especially with papers and midterms breathing down your neck, but it’s a great thing to aspire to.

Now the dogs and I are chillaxing at home before we take a walk. Gotta get those priorities straight.

The best time is now. The best time is now. The best time is now …