Sunday, July 22, 2018

Taking a Sunday off

Hello All, I wanted to share with you my porch decision and how I came to it and how freeing that has been, but today is a Meniere's day--headache, wooziness, imbalance, dizziness--and so using the computer for even a few minutes (like now) demands a concentration that is very tiring.

This week I will be working on my novel that I hope to publish in September, but I do hope to post next Sunday. Take care. Be gracious to yourselves. And know that you are thought of fondly by this cat-loving, elderly woman who is grateful for the gift of your presence in her life. Peace.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Dream of a Stillwater Porch

Today I’m sharing with you the background for three recent decisions I made, beginning on Sunday July 1. In this posting I’ll set the scene. Next Sunday, I hope to share the decisions.

I lived in a lovely 1870 lumberjack home in Stillwater, Minnesota, for 32 of the 39 years I lived in that northern state with its blizzards and wind chill. The home had a screened-in, side porch, off the kitchen, that had been built in 1910. Nothing had been done to it since then.

That porch became my favorite part of the house. The cats with whom I lived loved it too. They’d bask in the sun while lying on the ledge where the single-pane glass windows met the non-insulated three-foot-high wall, which sat atop a concrete slab that let in rain water and melting snow. Of course, during the winter, the porch became a deep freeze. No sitting or basking then.

I’d spend my time on the porch, reading, writing, visiting with friends and neighbors, holding a cat or two, or simply looking out the screened windows to the perennial gardens beyond. It was a place of conversation and also of retreat.

 The 1910 screened-in porch with the side perennial garden, the driveway, and the garage.

In 2001, I was finally able—financially—to hire a contractor to turn the porch into a four-season one. Within a short time, it boasted modern windows that kept out the heat in summer but retained the inner heat in winter; a heating-and-air-conditioning unit; a new concrete slab that wasn’t cracked and on which the insulated walls fitted snugly; and a lovely color of paint called "Bee's Honey." 

That porch simply delighted me. It was as if it had arms it could put around me—to comfort when I was in the throes of Meniere’s Disease. To listen attentively when I visited with friends there. To inspire my writing. To calm my soul when the vicissitudes of life threatened my inner peace and left me feeling adrift.

I lived in that home—with that welcoming four-season porch—for eight more years after the contractor completed the work: from September 2001 to June 2009. At that point I moved here to Missouri. I now live in a one-story home that pleases me in every way but one.

That one thing that needs change is the southern-facing patio that is attached to the living room. I go out onto it from glass sliding doors. It has a concrete slab and a roof held up by three pillars. My porch furniture from Stillwater fits there.

However, the weather is so hot and humid here and the bugs so plentiful that I spend little time there during the summer. And, of course, I cannot use it during the winter. Spring and fall are the patio’s seasons but with climate change even those times tend to be problematic temperature- and weather-wise.

When I first moved here, I thought of turning that patio into a four-season porch similar to the space I’d enjoyed in Stillwater. However, money was tight and rather soon after moving I began to have a series of physical problems that sapped my energy and preoccupied my thoughts. Necessarily, I let go of my yearning for a porch on which I might sit with the cats and enjoy the morning bird song and the apricot sunsets of Missouri.

Then in 2013, my health improved; a friend and I visited seven showrooms to get an idea of what a four-season porch would cost here in Missouri. Rather soon after that, however, my health declined again. I had to deal with cancer, Glaucoma and near loss of vision, and a serious back operation. That brings me to July 1, 2018. Next week I'll share what happened then.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Rock'n Roll in College

I learned ballroom dancing in the seventh grade. Sister Mary McCauley—a nun of the Sisters of Mercy order—hired someone to teach our class of 26. That same year we also learned how to square dance, which I greatly enjoyed. My problem with ballroom dancing was that I always wanted to take over the lead.

Given that and the bad case of acne I mentioned last week, I wasn’t popular at mixers when the ban played a waltz or foxtrot. I did have partners for the polka as I could throw myself into that dance with abandon, and the boys went along for the ride.

In college, I met a fellow freshman who’d had her own dance studio in high school. When I asked her to teach me to rock'n roll, she took on the challenge. With rock'n roll, I became a little more popular on the dancefloor. Of course, in the college I attended—a small library arts college for young women—we young women also danced together in the evening between study hall and lights out.

Our dorms were on the top floor of the ad building. A long hall—probably a couple of football fields long—extended down the center of the fourth floor, separating the various dorms. At night, we’d play music—loudly—and dance down that hall. Or, we’d push the beds and dressers in our dorms aside and have our own mixers. I slept in St. Lucy’s Dorm in which there were 48 beds—an enormous room. There we were, dressed in pajamas and robes just rockin’ and rollin’!

That continued throughout my freshman and sophomore years when we lived on the 4th floor. In my junior and senior years, we lived in private rooms for two or three in the various college houses. Sometimes all of us in one house would rock ‘n roll in the basement, but mostly that got left behind as we became more serious about studying. I didn’t go to the twin-college mixers because I was, quite simply, a wallflower.

In June 1958, I graduated and entered the convent. There was no dancing there and no phonographs on which to play dance records. Nor could we listen to the radio or television. The only music we heard was that of the liturgy. Of course, there was the melody of our chanting of the Divine Office several times a day.

At Mass, we sang a number of prayers. For Sunday Mass, the choir would sing a specially arranged song. The one I most remember was “Ubi Caritas,” which came to everyone’s attention in the early 1960s after a Benedictine priest—Father Paul Benoit—composed his melody for this ancient Latin antiphon. (Since then, many composers have set the words to their own melodies.)

Those of you who have had the opportunity to read my convent memoir, Prayer Wasn’t Enough, know that I daily disobeyed the convent traditions and rules by singing songs from the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s while I did my obediences—especially sorting the laundry. I was never reprimanded for this even though I’m quite sure the novice mistress knew I sang. Benedictines have always sung, and I don’t think she minded that my song wasn’t chant.

This video from YouTube shows that rock'n roll is still popular today!

Did you get a chance to rock ‘n roll? What was your favorite song to dance to?


Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Blue Velvet" and the Lost Cause

Last week, I posted mostly about the songs and dance of my childhood. From 7th grade through 12th, I went to school mixers, sock hops, and parties, but I remember only one dance with one boy.

My high school was small—just twenty-six in my senior graduating class. While girls had “gym” class, there were no teams. The boys played basketball and baseball. The job of girls was to cheer the boys on when they took to the court or the diamond.

Throughout the four years of high school, I was enamored of one boy—let’s call him Martin. He was tall, thin, handsome, and aloof, seldom deigning to talk with girls. I’m not sure why. Was he simply shy or did he feel superior because he was a star basketball player?

He seemed often to have an expression of contempt on his face. I, of course, found this intriguing. Many years later, “The Impossible Dream” became my favorite song, and my attraction to this young man hinted at my always wanting the impossible.

Nearly everyone in my class had gone through grade and high school together, so we knew one another well. In seventh and eighth grade, we began having parties at one another’s homes. We’d dance in the basement, we girls wearing our twin sweater sets, poodle skirts, bobby socks, and saddle shoes. The “guys” dressed in jeans and casual shirts.

At one of these gatherings, when I was sixteen, Martin danced with me to the music of “Blue Velvet,” sung by Tony Bennett.

I can remember his arms around me and my thinking that if I died right then, I’d have known heaven. He didn’t talk; he simply stared into the distance, looking over my head—I was 5’ 4”; he was 6 feet. The expression on his face was one of supreme boredom. That face, smooth, with no five o’clock shadow, always reminded me—in its angularity—of El Greco’s paintings. (I studied art.)

I was so tongue-tied from the sheer joy of dancing with this Adonis that I could only stammer a word or two. Let’s be honest—stammer really doesn’t do justice to my conversation. I babbled. When Tony sang “bluer than velvet were her eyes,” I can remember hoping that Martin would glance down and notice that my eyes were blue. Surely, bluer than velvet!

He didn’t.

During my teen-age years, my eyes were the one good feature of my face. I had an extremely bad case of acne. My figure was 36-24-36. My legs attractive. My hair curly. But my face was a disaster. Because of that, I became shy with boys, thinking that if they did dance with me they were just being kind.

So there we were in that basement: Martin superior; me, unattractive and obsequiously grateful that he’d asked me to dance. With my other male classmates, I could talk sports. Cars. Movies. Classes. But it was always Martin whose standoffishness attracted me.

We danced; I mumbled a few words. The song ended; he joined the other boys at the end of the room; I rejoined the girls. They all knew about the crush I had on Martin, so Barb, Cecilia, Patsy, and Joyce swooned and asked, “How was it?” “What’d he say?” “Isn’t he dreamy!” I was mute.

Was this just me, or were you ever attracted to someone who didn’t have the time of day for you?