Tag Archives: Family

5 Glorious Scents

Because I last wrote about 5 songs that move me, and I am having trouble coming up with an interesting prompt, I’ll cover another list of favorites.

Smells, scents, aromas. Old man cologne will NOT be on the menu here. Don’t you hate when you hug someone who has way too much cologne and the smell transfers to your own hair and clothing for the remainder of the day? But I digress…

Cinnamon

This is probably my very favorite smell. I love to say the word, love to put it in my coffee every morning, love the spicy, sugary scent of it wafting through a kitchen or market. It reminds me of the tasty treats of autumn and the freedom of summer. It correlates to home, family, cooking, festivals, parties, cozy nooks, sweetness. When a rat died in my attic space and the pest control guy couldn’t find the body, the first scent I scoured the candle aisle for was cinnamon. But you can’t cover up the stench of dead rat, only suffer through its depressing and repulsive cloud with the strength of a thousand cinnamon sticks.

Gardenia

I could inhale this lily white beauty for hours. I’m envious of those in my neighborhood who have a gardenia bush. I’ve thought of stealthily plucking a bloom while no one is looking but then my conscience prevails over my olfactory. You may see me in someone’s side yard with my face buried within the pedals. Gardenia’s scent is not overly sweet and smells as fresh as clean sheets, baby skin, a cold spring after a cool rain shower. I’d wear them everyday in my hair if I could, and disperse them in my various little vases and jars in every room in the house.

Coffee

When I was pregnant with my son I couldn’t stand the smell of coffee. I chalked it up to nature’s way of telling me I should nix the caffeine for about 9 months. When the baby gloriously arrived into the air of the Universe so did my admiration for coffee bean. Every night when I prep the coffee maker for tomorrow’s brew I have to stick my face into the coffee can. It reminds me of breakfast (my favorite meal), my grandfather and his cling-clingy-cling-cling of the spoon against the mug as he mixed in the sugar. Nutty, robust, and warm, coffee in its various forms and flavors signifies both energy and relaxation. Add two Stevia and a dash of vanilla almond milk and my eyes are shut and I’m making that mmmmm sound along with a quiet “thank god for coffee.”

New Shoes

Not only do I get a high from purchasing a new pair of shoes (can I get a Yay-uh from my fellow shoe lovers, meaning all women?) but there is something about the smell of new shoes. I’ll walk into a shoe store in the mall, even if I have no use or money for purchasing a new pair, just to breathe in the scent of new shoe. I bet the employees there don’t even notice the smell anymore. Kind of like those people whose houses smell of cat yet profess rather matter-of-factly that see, “you can’t even smell Twinkles.”

Old Books

There’s an old book I keep on my bedside table. I don’t particularly love the writing but I love its worn leather cover and the brownish pages inside. I’m one of those weird people who sniffs things in grocery aisles or antique shops and bookstores are no different. Some of my students look at me in bewilderment when I inhale a book at school, but then they will also come at me with their finger pointed, demanding “Sniff this!” and then I am doing the wincing. Old books not only tell the stories within them, but the stories from all the places they’ve traveled,  the shelves on which they waited patiently, the hands of those who sifted through their mellowing pages.

So these are some of my very favorite smells. Also good are bacon, newborn baby, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies, lemon, fresh basil, funeral home (because of all the flowers), the familiar and intoxicating scent of someone you love (who obviously smells really good to you). What are yours? I’d love to know…

smellgood

 

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5 Amazing Songs

As per request (and writing prompt) from one of my dear readers and a fellow music devouter, I’d like to share 5 amazing songs that build up emotion in my chest, take me to happy and far away places, or just leave me whirlishly dancing on the chipped-tiled kitchen floor.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds

This song of course is married to the ever-universal teen angst classic The Breakfast Club, making it even that much more endearing. That last scene when the song smacks in and John Bender gives a requited fist pump in a freeze frame forever is one of the best movie endings.

Don’t You Forget About Me reminds me of precious 80’s nostalgia, the innocence and simplicity there regarding music and hand-written letters and Walkmans and trips to the mall sans security personnel.

And the meaning: Don’t you forget about me. We all want to be remembered. We cannot let time or circumstance or distance allow the brain to turn us into static and the heart unforgiving or worse, ignored.

This one is for belting out fearlessly and dancing feverishly.  My students have seen me do this. On my fortieth birthday this is the song I boldly requested at the skating rink among all the preteens and their Taylor Swift enthusiasm. I’ll be singing and dancing to this one when I’m an old, old lady.

Don’t you forget about me. I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it, baby…

 

Us and Them by Pink Floyd

I listened to The Dark Side of the Moon on a constant loop along with The Cure’s Disintegration on a summer stint in Italy in my early teens. I know Roger Waters was talking about war in his lyrics but to me the “us” and “them” represented both the subtle and not-so-subtle differences I experienced between Americans and Italians. We spoke different languages, ate at different times of the day, looked different, but in the way we were different we were also the same. Just people trying to make it in the world, experience life, try not to trip on pebbles.

To this day, every time I hear that keyboard intro I feel the welling up in my chest. I am completely transported back to that balcony in Sardinia, back to that innocent 15 year old taking in everything never witnessed back in Antioch, Tennessee. I’m reminded of all the people I met and their cultural and nurturing influence on me.

Us, and them. And after all, we’re only ordinary men…

 

The Fool on the Hill by The Beatles

The Beatles were a big part of my growing up. They were not forced on me but rather gently introduced as my parent’s record collections included many Beatles albums and 45s. My brother and I would sit on the shaggy carpeted floor of our basement-turned-playroom and listen to them on our Fisher-price turntable. We fashioned ourselves as rock singers, belting out tunes as the grated vinyl spun round and round.

But when Fool on the Hill rolled along and into the tiny speaker, we would quietly sing together. Never looking up, frozen in that moment with lyrics and melody I swear brought welling up in my goofy sibling’s eyes.

That is one of my strongest and most fond memories of us together as children. Later in our teens we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky with a group of like-minded friends to see Paul McCartney in concert. I was enthralled to be in the presence of a Great. And to enjoy it with my bro at my side.

But the fool on the hill, sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head, see the world spinning round…

 

A Forest by The Cure

This haunting song is one of the reasons I will forever be a Cure fan and Classic Alternative junkie. I was first introduced to the Cure when Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me came out. During this era I was blown away by this sound which at the time never reached the local radio airwaves.

A Forest mirrored my teen angst, depression, and need for creative inspiration as sheets of rain seemed to fall endlessly in the grey, Tennessee winter. This dirge didn’t exasperate my feelings as my parents agonized. Instead it encapsulated and provided solace. I wasn’t alone in my fervor.

And just the word forest. It conjures images of lush foliage where mystery hides and escape is possible.

A few summers ago I was driving alone in North Florida on a windy road away from friends and family with whom I’d just spent an unforgettable week. As soon as I entered Tate’s Hell State Forest, an unforgiving ominous expanse of swampy woodland, my GPS fell silent and A Forest shuffled on my auxiliary. I don’t know if there’s ever been more perfect timing between song and circumstance.

Come closer and see, see into the trees…

 

The Dead Heart by Midnight Oil

I could write an entire blog post about songs by Midnight Oil but for the purpose of not turning this into a biography I’ll sample this one.

I was introduced to Midnight Oil via the video for Bed’s Are Burning, seen on MTV’s Friday Night Videos. This unique sound from Australia fronted by a bald, passionate giant literally left me gasping in its strum guitar and water tank drum beats. I was instantly transformed. Life would never be the same. And then began a life-long love and adoration for the band, their extensive collection of songs throughout the decades, and their messages about equality and the environment.

The Dead Heart evokes singing and whirling, and to the tune of aboriginal rights in Australia. It’s as serious as it is heartfelt and in the end a hopeful dance. The Oils do a fantastic job of informing while entertaining and this song is no exception. When I hear it I’m in the Outback as well as on my old friend’s balcony (what’s with me and balconies) back in ’87 when all this alternative rock hoopla began voluntarily infiltrating my soul.

Midnight Oil will forever be my favorite band of all time. And The Dead Heart is just one of many that fill me with emotion, the need to research, to help bring about change, and yes, to belt it out and move.

These 5 songs helped shape who I am. What are yours?

 

 

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A Special Place

I’ve been listening to Midnight Oil nonstop for the past week. This wasn’t the case for chunks of time in the past decade. New music tastes, life occurrences, the band’s parting of ways on the stage and in the studio led my ears away from my FAVORITE BAND OF ALL TIME. But they were never gone from my heart. Ever since those warm Tennessee days in 1987 when I awoke to this new sound from a country so far away, they have stayed in my auditory cortex, in my blood.

Music lovers all over the world recognize this. If given the means and time I would have seen every show they ever did. But I’ve danced to them three times live, once just a week ago.

I traveled from Florida to Toronto to see them. It had been fifteen years. They are currently on a reunion tour. Fans all over the globe coming out in droves. Waiting in line for hours. Donning their old concert tees. Swapping stories. A quirky, nerdy, socially and environmentally conscious group of people sharing a diehard love for this Aussie band we only dreamed would reunite.

This rekindling of my love for the band has me sifting through all their albums and compilations and remembering why I started listening to them in the first place. They were different from any of the alternative bands I was listening to at the time and definitely different from the bubblegum pop dominating the radio. They brought global awareness even though many of the issues I did not quite understand, me living in Antioch. Who is Jimmy Sharman, where is Alice Springs, and what is a bullroarer? Midnight Oil inspired me to be more environmentally conscious, to research, to write, explore, travel, dance wildly.

I listened to them in my teens when I needed to be understood. I listened to them while waiting for my dad to have brain surgery. I listened to them while pushing my son in the stroller. I’m listening to them now as I write this, those teen years long gone, wrinkles on my face, my father alive and well, my son now a teenager.

Thank you Midnight Oil for sharing your gifts of music and awareness with the universe. Thank you for coming together, perhaps one last time, to re-instill all that we love about you and continue to. A special place in our hearts, always.

And damn did you rock the stage.

 

 

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As it Exists in our Minds

They say you can’t go back. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. But sometimes it’s inevitable.

Steely Dan Radio on Pandora. That’ll do it for me. A tinge of past immediately starts flowing through the neurons and blood stream. Back to childhood days in my dad’s mustard El Camino or hunched over the Fischer-Price record player with my brother.  Back to teenage days, cycling through songs on random play from the new CD player. Back to college days, blasting out the sub woofers in my ’87 Nissan Sentra. And about a hundred other memories involving a Steely Dan song.

Whether you want it to or not, music will take you back.

There are those songs you can’t bear to hear. Either they bring back a dark memory or someone you’d rather not keep in your consciousness. Those we turn off as soon as we can, if possible. Or perhaps we need a good cry out and we let it rip.

Then there are those songs that fire up our frontal lobe like fourth of July sparklers and we are transported to a time and place no longer existing. Even if our childhood homes are still intact, or the city in which we grew up, it is never the same.

I guess that’s why they say you can never go back. Because no matter how bad we may want it to be there, it is gone.

And that is one of the many beauties of music– enabling us to hold onto a moment as if we were right there. Right there in our dad’s old car. Right there on the front porch with the Walk-man. Right there in the school parking lot with our quirky friends. Right there dancing with Grandma. Or and old friend. Or an old flame. Those that have moved on or passed away. In this moment they are alive.

And this is why I play Steely Dan on Sunday morning. So I won’t forget.

El Camino

 

 

 

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A Kind of Kindling

All relationships need kindling

It’s too easy to become wrapped up
in the monotony of daily life
and think things will fix themselves
with the drying of the plastic dishes on the counter

But sometimes gotta get out of the kitchen
go to a place where there are no dishes to wash
no routines to keep
a different perspective and air to breathe

We played in the field after dinner
and it was not planned
I saw you smile in the dunes
and make jokes while pedaling the surrey

It wasn’t you and I arguing
or me wishing you were 8 again

We were just ourselves
and there was no animosity
or harsh words or sadness

There are new memories on the beach now
a twinkle in my eye when I look southward
and see the city where we spent a weekend

A much-needed weekend
spontaneous and free

The you and me that always has been
and hopefully always will be.

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Communication Disconnect

Where has all this communication at the tips of our fingers brought us?

I’ve always been a proponent of texting. I’ve had six conversations at once doing this. Texting and instant messaging has kept many of my relationships alive, especially with those who live miles and miles away.

But recently I’m becoming a bit annoyed and confused at all this ability to instantly “connect” with others. I’m feeling lonelier than ever.

Texts can be misconstrued. And the fact that everyone has a phone and seems to be on them all the time doesn’t bode well when someone doesn’t text you back in a proper time frame. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and self over-analyzation.

“Did I say too much? Not enough? Is their phone working properly? Are they dead in a ditch somewhere?”

Two days or two weeks later you finally get a response. And there’s no mention of a hey I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you, excuse excuse excuse.

It’s enough to drive you insane.

Not that I haven’t done the same. And for that I am truly sorry. My excuse is that I was either in the throws of single-working-momdom or I did not know how to respond to you so I just sat on it for a few days hoping the words would eventually reach my brain.

I’m not saying I hate texting. I’m a writer so it’s a lot easier for me in most instances to type out what I want to say rather than find the words straight from my head.

I just don’t know if this ability to connect instantly is helping us or hurting us. I’m half thinking of doing an experiment where I only actually talk to people on the phone.

There are things you can detect from the human voice. Like if they sound distracted, bored, distant, excited, nervous, cheerful. But there are also those empty spots of uncomfortable silence. Or even worse when you talk over each other and can’t hear what the other is saying. And even more people like me who don’t know how to end the conversation without dragging it on and on.

And what about the dying art of letter writing? The last time I received a letter was at least 3 years ago. It came from a friend overseas. And when this friend came to live state side our messages paled in comparison to the lengthy, thought-out detailed letters we’d written.

I guess it boils down to the age-old manners rule of do unto others what you’d prefer done to you. Try not to leave people in the dark. Do your best to communicate. And stay off your phone when you’re actually face to face with someone. And keep your arms from crossing in front of you and your eyes from blinking too much…

What are your thoughts on electronic communication? Is it helping or hurting?

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The Inevitable Come-down from Christmas and that New Year’s Resolution List

OK so it happened again. There was a definite come-down two days after Christmas for me. Did it happen to you, too? This was a particularly zen holiday so that makes it worse. I didn’t Scrooge one second this year. But since I was a chubby cheeked toddler and all the Christmases in between the come-down creeps in. Like New Year’s morn when your head is pounding and the clock to punch back in at work is ticking furiously.

I know the holidays aren’t great for everyone. But can I wax mystical about mine this year? Just for a minute.

It was so peaceful. None of my perfectionism reared its ugly annoying little sharp-tongued monster head. My son said it was “The best Christmas ever!” He says that every year but for some reason I think he meant it most this time. We saw lots of family and friends and also had quiet time at home. Our usual traditions still intact (although our fave Indian restaurant was closed on Christmas Eve so we had Thai instead. And they gave me a gift of hugging hippo salt and pepper shakers!) Me and my son’s dad, or as I will now call him my co-parent, had a truly lovely time together. Like old friends again. No stress. No high expectations. And the weather was fabulous.

So I had my little come-down pity party after. I had a short cry in the shower. It would have lasted longer if “Cat’s In the Cradle” had shuffled on my iPod.

Now onto the list. There have been years where I was like, “I’m not gonna participate in making that ridiculous resolution list. They all list-fully fall away in a matter of months or even weeks anyhow.”

But in my concerted effort to continue the forward motion of zen, I shall make one this year for sure. So off the top of my clear head here it is.

  • Lower my expectations and put a pillow on top of the mouth of the perfectionism monster.
  • Give gratitude. Every day. And infiltrate this into my son’s brain as well.
  • Have more game nights.
  • Less technology. Or at least stop bringing my phone to the dinner table. And infiltrate this into my son’s brain as well.
  • Write more.
  • Balance work-life. Try to stave off exhaustion and have a dinner party once in awhile.
  • Get to the beach more. Even if just for 30 minutes to watch the sunset.
  • Let go of the things I can’t control, like my son being an almost teenager and not loving all the things I like to do.

So there it is. I’m sure I could add more but I’ll stop now. Eight is my favorite number anyway. The first and the last on the list are definitely the most difficult.

I’ll refer back to this list in times of turmoil. And look back to the zen of Christmas holiday 2016. What are your resolutions? I’d love to know.

And oh yes, I wish you a beautiful 2017. Happy New Year!

 

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