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The merry, harried month of May

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Day lilies in the front yard

May was an insane month around here – insane in a good way, but no time for blogging. John and Liz took their trek to the base camp at Mt. Everest, leaving very early May 4 and returning very late May 25. Brent and I took care of the three kiddos – and, in the big news I hinted at before – got their family moved in right next door! The timing wasn’t great, but they never dreamed they’d sell their house the first showing in the first hour of the first day it was on the market. The trip had been scheduled since December, so what do you do?

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Looking from our second-floor exercise room at Liz’s and Brent’s new (but old) forever home.

We hated like hell to lose Matthew and Alyssa and Little Rose (as Luke calls her) as neighbors, but what a great turn of events! The dogs are in heaven with three of their five children next door (though they’re still working things out with Fancy, who lives with the kids).

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Miss Don’t Come Near My Kids

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Miss Walk on Me, Pull My Tail, Just Pay Attention to Me

Taking care of up to five kids at a time at 60 is very different from being a young mom, but we survived. The days I had all five kids in Liz’s van, we called it “The LollyMobile.”

An important date in May was the 12th, when Tessie turned 11. She was very pleased with her new birthday bunny, though it lost its squeak quickly from all the playing.

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Not bad for 11. And she still loves opening presents.

We had an exciting two days with baby cardinals – several fledglings were hopping around our back yard, which I noticed after seeing the parents dive-bombing the kids and dogs. I put one in a safer spot (but he/she ran under our deck to join a sibling), then herded all the kids and dogs indoors, and we went upstairs and watched the parents rescue them. Pretty cool.

The next day wasn’t so successful. A very tiny cardinal had fallen on his back in our bamboo – I saw him from the laundry room window. The parents couldn’t help him, and he’s now buried in our hydrangeas out back – Liz’s children saw him die in the little temporary nest (bowl and washcloth) we’d made him. “Make him alive again, Lolly,” Silas implored, but though he called me SuperLolly for days, that was one I couldn’t fix. Oddly, about a foot from the unfortunate little cardinal was an intact robin’s egg, so we had an impromptu lesson on how eggs and baby birds work – and a nice distraction from the funeral.

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We’ve still got the little egg. As Jude said, “Two baby birds didn’t make it today.”

Sylvia had her preK graduation recital Tuesday night and Annabelle’s was Thursday. In between, Ben took me to Dave Matthews. We had great seats.Dave.jpeg

On the 24th, my sister, three friends and I saw Purple Rain at Riverdale. The music is timeless; the movie, oh, my. People laughed out loud at the ’80s hairdos and clothes (and the acting) and gasped at the sexism but applauded the musical performances. It was a fun night in a blur of a month.

The next night, after rain delays, the trekkers made it home. John showered me with riches from Nepal, but I’ll just show you what he brought for the children. We’re not sure where in the house Mr. Tiger, as Silas has named him, will live, as he doesn’t match our decor, but he’s very popular.

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Tiger, tiger, burning bright ..

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The Master of Space and Time

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No, this post isn’t about my beloved Leon Russell, THE Master of Space and Time. But I do keep hearing his song in my head.

John and I just marked our 12th wedding anniversary yesterday. I say “marked” because we haven’t had time to celebrate it yet – we’ll do that tomorrow night. We’ve had a crazy busy spell.

Our wedding song was “In My Life,” which is his still ringtone on my phone, but these days I tend to associate my husband with Leon Russell’s beautiful lyrics in “A Song for You“:

I’ll love you in a place
Where there’s no space and time.
I’ll love you for my life,
You are a friend of mine

And when my life is over,
Remember when we were together –
We were alone
And I was singing this song to you …

Happy anniversary, John. You are a master of space and time because it seems I’ve known you forever AND that we just met. I love you.

Time in general seems to be warp speed these days.

Mad Dogs.jpgJust the other day, I was hula-hooping to the last 30 minutes or so of Mad Dogs and Englishmen (the DVD, which I recently got and adore – those were the days), and I remembered a woman who sent me a letter and photos years ago when I wrote my “Fit Happens” column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She had an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis and/or fibromyalgia (like my mother and sister) and couldn’t do stress-bearing workouts. She wanted me to know she’d hooped herself into shape and the darling photos showed her physical transformation. I ended up interviewing her for a column. I wonder how she is?

One thing that kept us busy on our anniversary weekend was the opening of a fabulous, scary, thought-provoking exhibit in the gallery at John’s dream-come-true New Deal Studios and Gallery, a wood- and metal-workers cooperative. He’d had the dream for some time; fortunately Lee Weber came along at the right time to become his partner and help make it come true.  They complement each other as business partners and friends.

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Part of the “A Murder of Crows – A Southern Retrospective” exhibit featuring the work of V.L. Cox and Michael Church. Click on the link to see more info.

It’s the perfect space and seems to be the perfect time for things to take off.

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Forgive the blurriness of the photo, please – guess it’s time for a phone upgrade that I keep putting off. John is on the left, Lee on the right.

John and Lee make good partners in business. John and I make good partners in life.

Old fashioned love

One of my favorite pictures of all time. Ben must've been all of 7 months, if that.

One of my favorite pictures of all time. Ben must’ve been 7 months, if that. Following my kids around with my Minolta was one of my hobbies in the old days.

My baby boy is 37 today. So many things have changed, but that old fashioned love I learned about the morning he was born will never waiver. Ben was my little buddy, my reason to live, my greatest love.

His baby sister came along 15 months later, but parental love grows exponentially, so nothing changed, except he had to share my lap.

I’m proud of you son. I’ll love you forever.

Another of my favorite Ben pics is this one from 15 or so years ago. Email was still all cool and exciting when he sent me this one, from a ship at sea, no less.

Another of my favorite Ben pics is this one from 15 or so years ago. Email was still all cool and exciting when he sent me this one, from a ship at sea, no less.

Mean mistreater

 

$20 in one month? Just because you think you can? We don't think so.

$20 in one month? Just because you think you can? We don’t think so.

Oh-oh-oh Comcast. You did us wrong; you raised our rates and then held on and on and on and on and o-oh-on. 

At least you tried. But your Mean Mistreater business model doesn’t work for the Hardys anymore. Our love has died.

Actually, we never loved Comcast. We’d both long deplored Comcast’s tactic of sending bills with barely enough turn-around time to get them paid without incurring late fees (as well as the $5 “convenience” charge for paying over the phone the times we’d been out of the country when the bills came).

(Maybe it’s tilting at windmills, but in hopes of helping to keep the U.S. Post Office alive, I try to pay most of our bills by snail mail.)

But Uverse’s inability to play nicely with Macs a few years ago drove us to the corporate giant. 

At first our relationship was pretty good, but then they started raising rates – yet TV was hit and miss, often going out for no apparent reason. Not that we watched enough to justify the plan we had anyway.

Finally, I got John to call with the intention of dropping TV down to basic – or nothing except Wifi. Netflix would do. But after clawing his way through the dreaded computerized phone system, a sweet-talking “retention” agent suckered him in with promises of SPORTS! and free HBO for a year.

Oh, and they’d stop charging us $8 a month modem rental since the modem we bought, at Comcast’s recommendation, wouldn’t work with Comcast after all. Then our Internet service started going out multiple times daily, though, to give credit where it’s due, the last few months that had stopped.

But oh, you corporate devil. Our abusive relationship resumed sooner than we’d imagined, with the “free” HBO quickly turning to paid – and no one having a record of the verbal retention agreement. Then the modem charge came back. Then another “waived” charge, for the non-DVR receiver in the bedroom. 

You cheater, you.

I’d been begging John to break up with Comcast for quite some time (he might call it nagging) – they never liked to talk to me, since his name is on the account, so he had to do it. 

But he couldn’t bear the ordeal of fighting to get free and deciding to whom to turn until our most recent bill came with a $20 increase. No justification, just $20 more. 

That got the hubster to take action.

You can see the note-taking my law-school trained husband did through the Comcast divorce – though he never pulled the "I'm an attorney line" in his dealings with the behemoth.

You can see the note-taking my law-school trained husband did through the Comcast divorce – though he never pulled the “I’m an attorney line” in his dealings with the behemoth.

We’d been hearing Uverse was better on the Internet front and we’d really liked the TV service, so, once he got in fighting mode, John had our installation scheduled within a day. As soon as the at&t installer left, John called Comcast.

Of course he got a computer; after talking to it long enough, he chose “5” to “remove some or all Comcast services.” Suddenly a real person answered and asked what he wanted to do. When he told her he wanted to cancel, she said she wanted to give him a “great deal.” He said no thanks, but she insisted.

He said, “Lady, Uverse just left. I want to cancel.” She said, “Oh, I can’t do that.” After making him give her the reasons he wanted to cancel, she finally gave John the number to call someone else.

The number yielded the same computer menu (after re-entering his phone and account numbers); he had to press “5” again – and finally got someone who sounded just like the woman he spoke to before. They had the same conversation, she said she was “so sorry” to hear he wanted to cancel and wanted him to list his reasons.

Finally, my soft-spoken husband told her, “STOP! I just want to cancel effective immediately.”

But, no – that wouldn’t do! She told him he’d have to take our equipment to the service center 15 miles away. She couldn’t possibly cancel our service over the phone that day! To do that, he’d have to call another number (and still deliver the damn equipment).

He declined the number and said he’d just deliver the equipment the next morning – but she couldn’t possibly tell him what time the place opened, nor was it posted online. When he tried to call the local number to find out the hours, he got – maybe you guessed it – the same computer menu.

Since we were receiving two of the three grandkids we’d be keeping for a few days the next morning and I had to go to work, John hightailed it to the Comcast office by 8:30 –  an office that opened at 10. Home he came, and after I got home from work, he hauled it back the 15 miles to get there just in time to get us canceled.

Comcast managed to get another day’s pay out of us by refusing to cancel over the phone – typical of their in-your-face-we’re-a-corporation, dammit! model. 

Analytical John wonders how much income Comcast generates by such a model – delaying cancelation by a day or two times all the subscribers trying to quit. We’re guessing quite a bit.

When he got to the center, the woman who helped him was great, he stresses. And when he told her he hated Comcast, she told him she understood.

 

 

The beat goes on

Dressed to Kill openingt

Dressed to Kill opening

This could be called “My Life in Cher Years,” but we’ll stick with the format and go with “The Beat Goes On.” I highly encourage you to click on the link and skip through the advertisement to the vintage Sonny and Cher performance. Cher’s youthful, earnest voice of the early  years is naively charming, as opposed to the belting diva style that came just a few years later.

But no matter the voice she’s been an influence from the beginning. As little Laura Cartwright, I pored over her photos and beauty tips in 16 magazine (she was the brunette counter-balance to Pattie Boyd’s blonde beauty). I loved Sonny and Cher’s hippie look, as well as their music.

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Sonny and Cher in the early days, perusing a “16” that they’re bound to have been in. They were everywhere.

The only way to escape Mother’s chopping off of my bangs, which I hated and which destroyed any possibility of a mod look, was to grow them out, which I did in the fifth grade. But that was just the first step of my youthful fashion rebellion. Sometime after school photos in the sixth grade, I got my hair cut into a swing cut (shorter in the back, longer in the front) with very long “bridge” bangs.

(I always thought that term referred to the shape, curving down around the face like a bridge arch, but today I read that it referred to bangs that come to the bridge of the nose. Hmmm ….)

Mother gave up the battle, though she often mentioned that she didn’t see how I could see through those bangs and that I looked just like Cher. Cher

Bingo – that’s what I was going for, though for an 11-year-old it was quite a stretch.

Mother liked Sonny and Cher, too, though, enough to make wigs from dyed mop heads for her and Daddy as part of their Sonny and Cher costumes for a party they held. Photos are somewhere; if I find them, I’ll share. I know Daddy wore wild pants or a wild shirt (or both), which was not him at all. (Wild pants were very Mother, who was always a fashion plate.)

We all loved their TV show, and when Sonny and Cher came to Little Rock to do R-rated standup comedy, as well as songs (which were secondary by then), my boyfriend Jimmy and I were there on the third or fourth row of the right wing. His dad got VIP tickets to major shows, and at Barton Coliseum in those days, some shows had three-sided surround stage. We were super close.

I’m reasonably sure it was the summer of 1972, though it could have been early 1973.

The look in 1972, the first time I saw her live.

The look in 1972, the first time I saw her live.

David Brenner, who recently died way too young, opened for them. They were all hysterically funny and naughty – and Cher was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. TV and photos had not done her justice. She wore fabulous wigs and Bob Mackie dresses, but for the final costume change, she let her real hair down. Shimmering and divine it was, even with the fold line from being ponytailed to fit under the wigs – her hair deserved its own award, in my book.

Fast-forward 20 years. Cher’s an Academy Award-winning actress, for Moonstruck, a diva and an all-around hot commodity. I had used the Lori Davis TV-mail-order hair products Cher hawked for a while. lorid(I’d seen her hair live, remember?) That’s rather a faded memory that just this sec came back to me. Crazy. The hairspray, which I never used anyway, was always defective (the pump clogged), and you had to get the whole set. I gave up after a maybe a year??

Can’t believe I’d forgotten about that.

In 1992, Cher released CherFitness: A New Attitude. Cher was not the instructor, she was a wise-cracking student (and hostess) in a step aerobics class taught by Australian fitness guru Kelli Roberts. CherFitness Long a home workout maven (I had the original Jane Fonda workout on LP), I bought it immediately.

And fell in love with Cher all over again. She was so funny and humble and gorgeous and inspiring. I’d give anything to have that workout on DVD (not available) for the 10-minute ab/core portion alone. I was still doing it regularly in 2002 when John, and I met and it was my go-to ab workout as long as I had a VCR.

But I hadn’t gone to see Cher live again until now – I’ve always been a fan of Cher, not her singing, and concerts have always been about the music for me. This time, though, Julia and I decided to go. How could we not? This could be Cher’s last concert. And Cher, the wise-cracker, the gifted actress, the chameleon, the comeback kid, the activist – one of my childhood idols – Cher was someone I wanted to see again.

So how could we forget to buy tickets? Suddenly it was March and we were slapping our foreheads. I told Julia I’d start watching for some good deals, but they just weren’t coming.

I logged into Ticketmaster and looked at seats a few days out. The best available were almost the same seats we had for the Avett Brothers, which were pretty damn good, on the side, not too high – but something told me to wait.

A couple of days later, a week out, I logged in again, looked at “Best Available,” and fourth row, seats 20 and 21, popped up – dead center. As in X marks the spot on the stage in front of seat 20.

WHAT??

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“Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”

Oh, my gosh, did forgetfulness pay off. You can read the reviews – I’ll just say it was a cross between Broadway, Vegas and Cirque du Soleil. Mind-boggling.  And Cher was just a few feet away. Julia and I were blown away by the audaciousness.

And graciousness. Cher has a kind spirit. You can feel it radiating from the stage.

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Blonde or brunette, old face or new, Cher is Cher is Cher.

Halfbreed

Words fail me – you had to be there.

 

 

 

Life

Ben may be 35 today, but I can still see him at 6 month in my mind.

Ben may be 35 today, but I can still see him at 6 months in my mind.

On Nov. 10, 1978, I understood my purpose in life. It feels wrong to say I gave birth to my son, since he was taken by scheduled C-section, but I gave life to him – and he gave it to me.

Until I held my large, sturdy first-born, life had been a drifty, “whatever” proposition. But once we met, everything became clear. My purpose was in my arms. Motherhood suited me – it doesn’t define me, but it has made me who I am while fulfilling what I was meant to be.

Ben was the golden child – first Cartwright grandson, the boy my father (whom Ben dubbed “Grandbob”) never had, a smart and gorgeous infant. His time in the solo spotlight was short, though; by his first birthday I was heavily pregnant with his baby, as he called his sister.

Ben was just a couple of months away from being a doting big brother in this picture. Olan Miills, of course.

Ben was just a couple of months away from being a doting big brother in this picture. Olan Miills, of course.

By his second birthday, Grandbob was newly diagnosed with terminal cancer, which rocked our world. At Ben’s birthday party, Liz decided to steal the spotlight by standing for the first time – cameras quickly moved from the birthday boy and his cake to the teetery little girl in the petticoat-splayed dress and black-patent shoes.

Ben didn’t mind – he was a lesson in love and he adored his sister.

Liz is a hefty 4 months and Ben 19 months in this, their first "official" portrait together.

Liz is a hefty 4 months and Ben 19 months in this, their first “official” portrait together.

By his third birthday, Grandbob was dying and Mama was distracted and often at the hospital. After the party, Ben loaded his backpack with presents and took them to the cancer ward at Baptist Hospital, where he proudly spread them all over Daddy’s bed, and they discussed and played with each one.

Seems like yesterday in many ways.

Now my baby is a 35-year-old father of two, and his baby, precious Luke, will be 1 on Tuesday.

My purpose has expanded from two gorgeous children to five gorgeous grandkids. Lucky, lucky me.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I chose an Avett Brothers’ song to title this piece for two reasons: They sing about life, love, death and family and are one of my favorite bands. That’s reason 1. Reason 2 is that my kids, my friend Julia and I saw them at Verizon Friday night.

These boys have and are something special. If you don’t know them, look them up. I dare you not to be touched by them.

Once upon a time I had a drawerful of ticket stubs from concerts. I ditched or lost them all at some point, which I often regret. This is one I’m keeping.

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I want to tell you

Just have a sec to do a short post, but I want to tell you about some things you might want to check out.

The first is a super-fab, yet somewhat sad, documentary called Good Ol’ Freda. Maybe bittersweet is a better word for it, but it’s a Fredadon’t- miss for anyone who grew up with or has a love for The Beatles.

It’s the story of Freda Kelly, who was just a teenage secretary in Liverpool, when she got called out of a regimented secretarial pool to work for Brian Epstein – and became the secretary for the Fab Four and The Beatles Fan Club, a job she held for 10 years.

372615bShe also singlehandedly wrote The Beatles Fan Club newsletter and made sure all fans were treated with honesty and respect.

And kept close counsel all these years of the private details of the boys’ lives to which she was privvy. She still doesn’t divulge any. She’s a good ol’ girl.

Fortunately for us, my sister, Cathy, our friend Susan Conde, and I went the Monday of the first and only week it played at Market Street Cinema. You’ll have to wait and rent it if you’re in Little Rock, but do see it if you can.

Made me realize again how lucky I was to grow up in the time I did. Just 7 when the boys hit the U.S. airwaves, I was much younger than the screaming Beatles fans who literally chased them around or got to see them live, but my love for them helped shape my life.

I just wish I’d saved all my Beatles bubble gum trading cards and 16 magazines. Sigh.

Muscle ShoalsYou do have time to catch another great music documentary at Market Street – Muscle Shoals, about the recording studios, the people behind them and all the great music that flowed out of them in little ol’ Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Susan and I went back to see it Tuesday night – it opened last Friday and, sadly, starting tomorrow it’s only on in the afternoon, according to Market Street’s website, but if you can get there, get there.

It’s the best music movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. The sheer talent is beyond the pale. Wilson Pickett. Duane Allman. Aretha Franklin. Etta James. And on and on and on.

The music is centered around the story of how Fame Studio was started and how Muscle Shoals Sound Studio grew out of that – well, I don’t want to give too much away, just drive you to the theater. Or to DVD rental.

Wherever you are, if either movie is playing, run to the theater, if you love music and history. You won’t be sorry.

In between the documentaries, John, Cathy, Paul and I saw Gravity. In 3D. It was good. Stunning in many ways – and I love space movies. But it couldn’t compare for me to these two little documentaries.

(Although it made me realize that if I knew I were terminally ill, I’d love to be shot solo into space to see what’s out there. What a way to go, if you’re already going.)

The last thing I want to tell you is that if you have children in your lives, read NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. NurtureShock It will shake up or reinforce your thinking, depending on whether you’re an everybody gets a trophy type or an old-school parent.

Based on study after study after study, it’s anything but dry. Fascinating reading. Entertainingly written doses of useful information.  You’ll be a better parent or grandparent if you absorb even part of it.

And you’ll understand this modern life better whether you have kids or not.

Just had to put that info out there.