A sick day, a snow day, a just say no day

There are days when we should stop and smell the chicken and dumplings and listen to some Christmas carols. Sometimes when we are so consistently scheduled, it feels really good to break the pattern. When you have a sick child, things have to change and we are all forced to slow down and say no to obligations. In a way it is a blessing! It's like a bonus day, a snow day...when you have the time for more of those things you don't usually get to enjoy as long as you wish like coloring, cooking, and cuddling.

You know how there’s a Seinfeld episode for everything that happens to us in life? I think the same is true for Beatles songs…After a long week at work, I kept having a Beatles soundtrack in my head that related to how I was feeling…It’s been a Hard Days Night and we keep having to Come Together at work when all I want to say is Don’t Bother Me because I’m so Tired. I know that All Things Must Pass so I’ll say Ob-La-Di and when I need some, I’ll yell HELP and I Call Your Name!
After singing these songs in my head for a few days, my daughter got sick. I thought…more stress, but it was truly a blessing because I was forced to slow down with her and just breathe. We curled up together sharing a blanket and colored princesses. Isn’t it true that once we relax, answers to problems will often be revealed? What had seemed like such a big deal becomes much less of one. Then we can be more productive in every area… maybe we all need to color more.
I remember enjoying sick days at home from school when my mom would set me up on the sofa with chicken noodle soup, hot tea, warm blankets, a fire in the fireplace, and I Love Lucy. I felt warm, safe, and secure. Nothing beats home when you are exhausted and curling up in your little mom-made cocoon is pure happiness. “Stay-at-home” mom is the dream job for most working moms, but it has a more special meaning on a sick day. We all deserve some “stay-at-home” time. Make sure you take advantage of yours when you can.
Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.
~Ashleigh Brilliant
How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.
~Spanish Proverb

Rest when you're weary. Refresh and renew yourself,
your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.
~Ralph Marston
There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~Sylvia Plath
“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox.
And there’s one more—that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flue.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broken—
My hips hurt when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb,
I have a silver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is—what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is… Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”
~ Shel Silverstein

For your next “stay-at-home” day! Hopefully it will be a “snow day” and not a “sick day!” Read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, listen to She and Him, A Very She & Him Christmas, eat chicken and dumplings, feel a cashmere sweater against your skin, and sip and smell some peppermint tea. You’ll be feeling better before you know it.

Chicken and Dumplings
8 chicken thighs (with skin and bones)
Dredge in and brown in 2-3T vegetable oil:
½ flour
Generous amount of salt
½ t cayenne
¼ t black pepper
Sweat in 1 T vegetable oil:
3 leeks, white and light green part sliced in half moons
2 celery ribs diced
2 carrots, diced
1 sweet potato, peeled, cut into chunks
2 parsnips, peeled, diced
2 bay leaves
Deglaze with 1 C dry white wine
Stir in ¼ C more of flour
Gradually add 6 C chicken broth
Stir in browned chicken and juices
2 t fresh lemon juice
1 t sage and rosemary
For the dumplings:
1 ½ C flour
1 C parmesan cheese, grated
2 ½ t baking powder
2 t sugar
Salt and pepper
1 C whole milk
4 T butter

Preheat oven to 375. Cut chicken into large pieces. Combine flour and seasonings in a resalable plastic bag. Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess in a deep oven proof pot, heat 1 T oil over med-high. Brown half the chicken; transfer to a plate. Brown the rest in a bit more oil then remove and reduce heat. Sweat the vegetables and bay leaves in oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with wine; simmer until almost evaporated. Stir in flour to coat vegetables. Gradually add broth then chicken. Cover pot and transfer to the oven; cook for 20 minutes. While stew is in the oven, make dumpling dough. Stir in lemon juice, and herbs before adding dumplings. Blend dry ingredients for dumplings in a mixing bowl. Heat milk and butter until butter melts; blend into dry ingredients. Shape using a small ice cream scoop then drop dumplings into the simmering stew. Braise in oven until dumplings are cooked through, about 20 minutes. 

Here’s to another week and wishing for Good Day Sunshine!

Giselle: bringing romance back to life

A poor peasant girl falls in love with a man out of her league. It’s a story we’ve all heard before, a young girl who yearns for what she cannot have. Remember that feeling you had when you first fell in love….there's a dance your heart does and Giselle’s heart was shining through her every delicate jeté.
“Giselle” is one of the most important and popular ballets in dance history. As a lover of French romanticism, it has always been my favorite. People go see romantic ballets like “Giselle” for the same reason we continue to see Shakespeare’s plays… the story is so good that we always discover something new that we hadn’t seen before. “Giselle” is still relevant today even though it was first performed in Paris in 1841.
My impressionable five-year old daughter had tears in her eyes watching “Giselle”; she was obviously moved by the ballet. When I asked her the next day what she thought of “Giselle” she said, “Oh Mommy, don’t make me think of Giselle, it breaks my heart!” Well, “Giselle” is a French ballet and the French do tend to have dark themes much like Disney…there’s always a dark side, a wicked queen, and a spooky forest…just enough to make a sensitive little girl emotional.
Going to see the Texas Ballet Theatre’s production of “Giselle” that Ben Stevenson (the artistic director) staged was a treat for all ages. The matinee was an audience full of little girls oohing and ahhing, especially when Giselle flew like Tinkerbelle across the stage. One child remarked, “Where’d she go?” “Giselle” was created during a time when ballet explored elevation and weightlessness. The ballerinas glide, float, and fly across the stage.
“Giselle” is a dark French tale of a young peasant girl who lives with her mother in a small village of the Rhineland in a medieval German town. A royal hunting party passes through Giselle’s village.  A young village girl, Giselle has fallen obsessively in love with the royal Albrecht, an old-world duke who poses as a villager in order to steal her heart.
Hilarion, a real villager who also loves Giselle, becomes very jealous and plots to reveal Albrecht’s true identity. Albrecht declares his love to Giselle and promises to be faithful. Giselle playfully tests his promise with a daisy, plucking “he loves me, he loves me not” petals.  She realizes with sadness that her last daisy petal shows Albrecht doesn’t love her. Albrecht patches up the daisy and Giselle is joyful again as they dance together.  Hilarion arrives and tries to separate them and he is scolded by Giselle.
Giselle is unaware that Albrecht is engaged to the beautifully dressed Bathilde, daughter of a Duke. Bathilde is charmed by Giselle and presents her with one of her expensive necklaces from her neck. Giselle’s mother senses trouble and her daughter’s impulsive dancing reminds her of the ill-fated Wilis. Her mother is also worried about Giselle’s fragile and delicate heart.
When Giselle learns that Albrecht is betrothed to Bathilde, she takes off the necklace and loses her mind. Her hair tumbles down wildly and she puts her hands to her head and rocks back and forth. Going mad, Giselle stabs herself with Albrecht’s sword. Although Giselle takes her life with the sword, her death is actually a result of her weak heart.
After Giselle’s death, the second act takes the audience into a moonlit forest near the tomb where Giselle has been buried. A strange and supernatural forest is haunted by the Wilis, spirits of the betrothed girls who have died as a result of being betrayed by unfaithful loves. Each night they rise from their graves, waiting for young men that they will dance to death.
At the stroke of midnight the white veiled Wilis appear, led by their proud and ghostly Queen Myrtha. Hilarion has come to the tomb to grieve for Giselle. He is discovered by the Wilis and they drive him to the lake with a dance of exhaustion.
Myrtha summons Giselle from her grave to be welcomed into the sisterhood. Albrecht also comes to Giselle's grave to mourn her. The eighteen Wilis form a beautiful white barrier of long diagonal lines and hop in arabesques as they crisscross the graveyard. Giselle is possessed with a forgiving love and begs for his release, Myrtha denies her request but lucky for Albrecht, he is saved by the bell once day breaks and the Wilis retreat to their graves. Giselle's love has saved him and by not surrendering to feelings of hatred for Albrecht, Giselle is freed from any affiliation with the Wilis' dark sorority, and returns to her grave to rest in peace.

Poetry...the greatest of all arts

People recite poetry at the most memorable events of our lives…retirements, marriages, funerals, graduations, anniversaries, birthdays…poems are often personal and intimate. They may also express humor, spirituality and whimsy. Regardless of the subject matter, poetry can make us think and help to put things into perspective. Just as in art, every person may see and feel differently about poetry and gather inspiration from experiencing it.

As we all respond to the history of art, a poet can’t help but build on what other artists have done in the past as the inspirations of today are lofted by creativity.

Fellow Texan, Austin Kleon, was inspired by what Walt Whitman once said, “The true poem is the daily newspaper.” Kleon has a serendipitous approach to creating poetry; starting with a newspaper (rather than a blank page) and eliminating words he doesn’t need. It’s like an adult game of hide and seek.

Stockholm native, Tomos Transtromer recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I think of Chagall when I read Transtromer’s poetry because he is dreamy like Chagall; they both remind us that the world is not what it appears to be…if we look close enough we may find something out of the ordinary.  

Painting by Mark Chagall:  Me and My Village

November in the Former DDR

The almighty cyclop’s-eye clouded over
and the grass shook itself in the coal dust.

Beaten black and blue by the night’s dreams
we board the train
that stops at every station
and lays eggs.

Almost silent.
The clang of the church bells’ buckets
fetching water.
And someone’s inexorable cough
scolding everything and everyone.

A stone idol moves its lips:
it’s the city.
Ruled by iron-hard misunderstandings
among kiosk attendants butchers
metal-workers naval officers
iron-hard misunderstandings, academics!

How sore my eyes are!
They’ve been reading by the faint glimmer of the glow-worm lamps.
November offers caramels of granite.
Like world history
laughing at the wrong place.

But we hear the clang
of the church bells’ buckets fetching water
every Wednesday
- is it Wednesday? -
so much for our Sundays!

~ Tomas Transtromer

Photograph by Gerd Ludwig, National Geographic

I love this photograph of these friends who meet Sundays in Sevastopol to sing. I imagine these friends have done this for years; they have the right idea about life…to laugh, sing, and enjoy each other’s company in the moment.

The Crazy Woman

I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I’ll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.

I’ll wait until November.
That is the time for me.
I’ll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.
And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
“That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May.”

~Gwendolyn Brooks

Painting by Gayle Lorraine: A Common Language Painting

Great are the Myths

Great is language…it is the mightiest of the sciences,
It is the fullness and color and form and diversity of the earth…and of men and women…and of all qualities and processes; it is greater than buildings or ships or religions or paintings or music.

~Walt Whitman

It seems that many artists and poets have found inspiration and creativity under rocks that others would choose not to move.  If language is the mightiest of sciences, perhaps more should seek to find questions and answers that provoke the highest level of pensive spirit lifting in common ordinary places, like the newspaper, the clouds or the faces of people experiencing parts of life we may not know so well. Both peace and power may be discovered by singing more songs, writing more words, looking for things that others might not see…and laughing. Try it, you may like it.

Blondie, Still Number One

Blondie recently released their ninth album, Panic of Girls which is full of international flowing flavors like Latin, French, reggae…all of those multilingual sounds on one album scream where they’ve been and breathe like a fine wine that improves with age. I’ve been sipping Blondie with deliberate pleasure since I saw them last week at Dallas’ Granada Theatre.
Blondie has an ethereal and infectious sound that is singularly identifiable and emotionally haunting; they are respected and appreciated to this day.
Harry says, “Music is a funny thing; kind of like this creature that’s always evolving and layering and forming different identities.”
Hearing Blondie, you are exposed to so many genres: disco, punk, club, new wave, dreamy pop, rock, rap… all rolled into one great band. With this wide range of genres comes a wide range of demographically diverse fans. The Blondie audience cannot be stereotyped.
They were so prevalent during the 70s and 80s; hearing them today it is obvious that they are still relevant.  Being able to hear from so many artists from this time period like Stevie Nicks, Cyndi Lauper, The Cars, The Pretenders, The Go Go’s creates reflections on a great time in music. Hearing Blondie with a line-up of old and new feels very right, very current, and very Blondie.
Blondie’s name derived from comments made by truck drivers who catcalled "Hey, Blondie" to Harry, and the name just stuck.
Debbie Harry, the voice and face of Blondie, has a sexy maturity that adds to her je ne sais quoi; it’s smoky, husky, sophisticated, and still exudes her signature flirty vibe. She is mesmerizing; she demands stage presence placing her hands on her hips and staring into the audience. You can’t take your eyes off of her.
She walked out onto Dallas’ Granada stage wearing Audrey Hepburn style sunglasses and a long romantic style tutu. It was like a Tim Burton costume and with each song; she’d peel off a layer to add more drama-- changing her costume right before our eyes… going from white to black…oh so Blondie!
I imagine Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe inspired some of Debbie’s confident style. Debbie Harry has always been a style icon. She was a dancer, Playboy bunny, and one of the sexist women in the world. Harry’s fashion forward style is legendary; once wearing a double-sided razor blade dress she inspires current artists like Lady Gaga. Debbie Harry made that type of avant-garde fashion a swirly part of her performance signature long before Lady Gaga.
The band Blondie has been around for nearly forty years now and is still the coolest of the cool. Debbie Harry says about finding inspiration, “I like to go out dancing and dance around to stuff. You can just, you know, feel it.”
Debbie Harry is sixty-six and admits that she finds ageing to be rough saying, “I rely on looks a lot. Women’s calling cards, unfortunately, are based on their looks. I’m trying my best now. I’m healthy and I exercise like a fiend and do all that stuff that recovered drug addicts do.” She also says when asked if she was sorry she did not have children of her own, “Sometimes, sometimes. I guess it never struck me as being part of survival and for many people it is, it’s a way of surviving.”
There are places that have such a heavy past it’s almost like they are haunted. I’d like to go back in time to the heyday of Studio 54 and CBGB’s. I’ve visited both of those places in NYC (seeing Cabaret at Studio 54 and my sister perform at CBGB’s). I couldn’t help but think of all the good times that were had. Blondie wrote a love song to another NYC club, Mother, that holds mesmerizing memories of their musical past.
Two highlights that weren’t on the menu for the Dallas show were when Blondie blended “Rapture” with Beastie Boys’ You Gotta Fight for your Right to Party and as a surprise for Dallas played a ZZ Top cover of Sharp Dressed Man that had everyone singing along.
Blondie’s Heart of Glass was the final encore that left everyone feeling so good. Blondie’s music gives off so many emotions…Maria and Dreaming are some of my favorites, she can bring tears to your eyes. My daughter can’t get enough of her new Latin song, she’ll sing Papi, papi ven y bésame as we drive home. I honestly love everything Blondie does; they’re still my number one!
The tide is high but I'm holding on
I'm gonna be your number one
I'm not the kind of girl who gives up just like that
Oh, no
Blondie original members include Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Clem Burke, along with new players Leigh Foxx, Tommy Kessler, and Matt Katz-Bohen.