Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stolen Moments

"Calgon take me away!" was the slogan for a television ad that seemed to annoy more mothers than serve them.  It showed a woman locked in her bathroom, soaking in a bubble bath blisfully ignoring her children's calls.  In my world the bathroom is no sanctuary.  Not even recently installed locks can shelter my weary body and over sensitive ears from the constant cries of "Mom!" 

In the B.C. years bathroom doors were never shut; not even when creating the foulest of odors.  Now as soon as I am seated on the toilet, the bathroom becomes an instant petting station.  Pets that never come when called line up at the door to demand belly rubs and the very awkward lap sit.

Locks are no barrier to the wiley observations of the insistant child.  From infancy my son has defeated all locks and child gates.  I swear he learned to work the drop rail on his crib before I did! In a home with three rambunctious boys there is no "Calgon" moment.

I hide in my room, trying to find my writer's voice.  I have plenty of concepts but the mind won't slow long enough to tell my fingers which keys to type.  Each sentence is a whiny echo of  the sounds from the other room.  "Momma!  Isaac won't let me...."

I sit in the front room to supervise the wrestling and to keep them from killing each other.  My laptop sits with me, a blank screen.  Its not writers' block.  Its Mommy block.  "I'm hungry!  Whats for dinner?  I don't like that!"  The writer's voice begs to emerge but is interrupted by Sponge Bob's annoyingly nasal laugh. Oh well, its time to supervise homework and fix dinner.

I love being a parent.  I asked for it and sought it out.  I am not alone in this endeavor but I definitely envisioned it differently.  I saw myself more as the "Hi Honey, I'm home!" type, coming in after a day at work to a semi-orderly house with dinner on the stove.  Instead, we both work.  I work two jobs.  She works with disabled adults all day and the last thing she wants is to handle the "Mom, Austin bit me!" crisis.  As one friend asked "what doesn't happen at your house?" Every day is a new adventure. 

After the endless trips for water, or bathroom or to say an extra good night the boys are finally settled in bed and the urge to write returns.  The mind is ready and the body unwilling.  The spouse needs attention.  Wait, so do I.  I need attention.  We retire ourselves and hope the day unwinds gently as we discuss important things like what to do about the shotgun found under Isaac's bed.

Finally the moment arrives when the mind and body are both willing.  "Voice?  Hellooo, Voice I'm listening!  Voice?" 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Music in Me

My parents were musicians; their hearts and souls expressed in bold crescendos and decrescendos as if their lives were part of a great symphony.  My mother played flute and shared her talent in community orchestras and choirs, while my father studied voice and opera for a chance of a professional career.  As often happens though, life takes over and dreams are re imagined.

Mom and Dad seized every opportunity to imprint that love on to us.  More often than not, music was the background noise of choice.  Radios were on; records and tapes playing in continuous loops.  The 8-track tape was the coolest invention and more money was spent on quality stereo cabinet furniture than the television set. During the summers Dad disconnected the television and we listened to his vast collection of movie soundtracks while he retold the stories to us.  We were all encouraged to learn band instruments and sing in the church or school choirs.  My oldest brother learned flute, piccolo and french horn;  my sister clarinet.  I took up flute, piccolo, trombone and guitar.

I chose flute because Dad wouldn't let me learn trumpet, and my big brother played flute.  I chose piccolo because the piccolo player was the elite of flutes.  Well that and the fact that I was too lazy to carry the heavier instrument in marching band.  Lets face it, my arms got tired stretched out at shoulder height for such long periods.  I learned trombone to annoy my father and prove that girls could play brass instruments.  Such the double standard!  My brother was not a sissy for wanting to play flute, but the trumpet was a "boys" instrument!  I played guitar to be cool.

I never excelled with the guitar, but I mastered the basic notes and a variety strums.  I was competent enough to play for the church youth group and therefor believed I had achieved coolness; but there were always others better than me.  Despite my selfish beginnings, it was guitar that reached my soul. 

I started guitar around the time of my spiritual awakening.  The songs I played and sang were mostly from the youth group song book, and a few folk songs from an old "Hootenanny" book I acquired.  Much of the music reflected my mixed bag of teen emotions as I transitioned to adulthood.  If I was angry, I pounded the strings until my respect for the instrument took over and I calmed myself.  If I was sad, I sang soulful songs designed to pull the emotions forward until I collapsed in a fit of tears.  When happy, I flitted along with jaunty melodies.  It didn't matter, there was always a song fit for my mood.

In later years I played for the simple joy of others.  Sunday nights, reserved for family gatherings, were concluded with a family sing-a-long.  I played silly songs for my brother's children and the old folk songs for my mom.  She loved to watch the kids as they accompanied me with basic rhythm makers.  On occasion she would play along on the bongos just to see the children's faces light up when Grandma joined the "band."  Her passion for music would live long in their hearts as they each learned instruments and played in the high school bands.  My mom followed their musical training, attending all of their concerts until it was no longer possible.  Video taped performances were never quite the same, but she watched and listened as if she was right there with them.

 Eventually, the Sunday sing-a-longs were set aside for other things.  Teenage grandchildren had places to be, and the guitar seldom seemed to make into the car for the long drive  each week.  Life had once again re aligned priorities.  Illness invaded the body and fear the heart.   As the notes of life's symphony began to fade, so did the melody in my soul.

The music in me has been mostly silent for four years. I listen to talk radio more than not, and am not the least bit interested in the next American Idol.  But the coda is still there, waiting for me to read the score and go back to the beginning.  My own children love to sing and dance.  They all want to learn instruments.   The youngest will sing anything and wants to learn guitar. The middle will be happy with whatever musical noise he can make; And although a trumpet is available, the oldest (a boy) has decided to learn flute.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Maria T. Groschup-Black

In Care of Driver

Hugh is a delightful old man in his early 80s. He is tall and slender; his smile spreads easily from ear to ear. His eyes, neither vacant nor lost, twinkle with laughter and joy at the simple things in life. Each step is a new beginning and every day a victory.

Today, a familiar presence guides him to his bus and a familiar voice comforts his infantile needs with precise directions. “Step up Daddy. Step up.” “Daddy, step UP!” A gentle nudge behind the knee usually helps to remind Hugh how to make his legs go. Today it is not enough. A gruff voice, accompanied by a playful smack on the butt intercedes. “Harrison! Get on up the bus!” Hugh chuckles “yes Ma’am” and climbs the step himself. Not even the advanced stages of his disease can make him forget his “boss” of 50 years.

“Sit down Daddy.” The voice is always patient though firm. “Scoot over Daddy so I can buckle you in.” Each command is repeated and followed with a nudge. At every command Hugh breaks into his wide grin, nods his head and responds “yeah.” Then he immediately forgets to follow through. The family breathes in momentary peace as the driver takes over and they are granted an all too short but much needed break from his daily care.

Hugh is safely delivered to his location, a research and day-care facility where the command sequences begin anew. “Stand up Mr. Harrison, stand up.” Hugh’s innocence and child-like glee makes everyone instantly fall in love with him. His laughter and smile make them all wish they’d know him before; for certainly, an aged soul with so much delight must have been yet more beautiful in his most cognitive times.

Hugh: Bright in mind and spirit – Old German… derived from Hugo
A thinker; Intelligent – Welsh variant of the Latin Hugh

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oh No, I've Been Deleted!

Oh no!  I've been deleted!  Seriously, I could care less and I'm tempted to click the 'like' button that sarcastically announces my dismay at being deleted.  Many have had their say about social media and its affect on our ability to connect with others around the world.  Ever minute detail of our lives is available at our finger tips.  There are countless "like" buttons that express our political opinions and personal frustrations.  What should be a wonderful connection to old friends and family has become a place to seek attention.

FaceBook is vampiric and uses way too much of our time and energy.  We post a phrase or activity and haunt the site, expecting feedback from our peers.  We all do it.  I'm on right now in another window, faithfully checking in to see if I got the attention I desired.  We post inflammatory information just to follow the drama that ensues.  We publicly humiliate ourselves as well as each other from the safety of our keyboard, and in doing so stay connected with family and friends who wouldn't dare share the same information to our faces.

Maybe it is good.  I have met and gotten to know family that I've only heard of before.  I've found old friends from years ago and been surprised at who has accepted my requests to connect.   I'm not surprised at who has connected with me and later deleted me.   After all, some times its just plain curiosity as to what whoever is up to since the old days.  Once that is satisfied, why keep them on?  My guess is that what you had or didn't have in common remains the same.  So go ahead and delete me.  Chances are, I was about to delete you too.