Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Becoming a Bass Player

After almost three and a half years, some days (but not all days) I feel like a bass player. This past weekend, I jammed at the Mid-Winter Bluegrass Festival and for the first time, I felt like I could play with the big boys. It seems like a long time coming; this is the fourth year that I was there with my bass. This year, I could just walk around with my instrument and join up with even the really good musicians. Whoa!

Then last night Dave and I went to the Lyons jam and I listened to and watched Eric Thorin play bass--that brought me back off my Mid-Winter cloud for sure. He is jaw-droppingly good and one of the best bluegrass bass players out there. Viewing him made me feel like I was back to being a beginner.

Okay, well, even so, I am happy with where I am. I have made good progress and can play well. I can't do the fancy stuff yet; that's where my skills are lacking.

Give me a couple more years though--fancy stuff, here I come!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boulder International Film Festival

It was over a week ago, but I am still thinking about the movies that I saw at the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF). David volunteered to work at the fest; as a result, I got tickets to two of the shows.

The first one was a documentary about Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. It had information that I didn't know about: Cash's interest in and desire to help men in prison. He actually took a great interest in a fellow named Glenn Shirley and played a role in helping him get out of prison and gave the guy a job playing with Cash and his band. All went downhill though; Shirley reverted to drug use and committed suicide. The movie played a song that Cash wrote: "I Got Stripes." Dave and I both liked it and we looked up the words and are playing it now at jams and plan for it to be on the Steel Pennies set list.

The second movie I saw was the "Shorts." There were 7 short films, each probably ten minutes long or less. One was nominated for an Academy Award (it didn't win) called "New Kid", set in a Irish classroom of kids and their teacher. It was pretty funny.

David's favorite short was "spider." This one had the theme, "it's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye." It had some shock appeal--especially for the men in the audience. The story was about a guy who picked up a rubber spider, and how the spider caused some havoc.

My favorite short was "In the Dark." It was set in Iran, just prior to the return of Khomeini's triumphant return. A double agent was trying to get out of the country via help from the CIA. It was a very powerful piece, all the more so since it was based upon a true story. The filmmaker spoke with the audience immediately afterward; he is of Iranian heritage but has never lived there--nor could he after making this movie.

All in all, some fascinating and thought-provoking time spent. Plus, we came away with a new song for our repertoire.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mrs. Tom Foster

Sometimes in listening to my mother make phone calls, I am taken by how much her sense of self is entwined with her role as wife. She, of course, grew up and was a young mother in a much different era than I. Spending time recently with her, I noticed how she identifies herself on the phone as "Mrs. Tom Foster"--NOT as "Mrs. Janice Foster." While at home in Kentucky one day I called the local phone company to dispute some charges on her phone bill. She sat in a chair and called corrections to me as I tried to talk to the customer service rep. When I identified myself as "Janice Foster", she immediately announced in the background--"No--Mrs. Tom Foster."

Thinking this over, I knew that I would never call the phone company or anyone else and identify myself as Mrs. David Patton. I guess I never have.

I can't even say that my mother does this because she never worked outside of the house--she did. She worked from a young age at an insurance company and continued to do so after becoming a mother; my grandmother served as babysitter. After a while, and a bunch of kids, she did stop working to focus on us, I suppose. Then when we were older, she worked in an optometrist office for some years.

I think that my mother calls herself out as the wife of a man for a couple of reasons. First, it is an act of pride. She is proud to be married to my father and always has been. Secondly, it is how things were done in her time. I would bet that when she first married, every wife labeled herself in that manner. Many wives didn't work at that time. Today is different; women in general have a stronger sense of self and identity that isn't part of the husband. Many wives have just as big a role outside the home as the husband does in terms of working and supporting the household.

It is interesting to me to hear her call herself "Mrs. Tom Foster." One of these days I'll ask her about it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Going to the Eye Doctor: It's not a Pass/Fail Exam

One of my contact lenses is not working correctly these days. I can see just fine out of my right eye, but the left eye doesn't cooperate. After a little experimentation, I reached the conclusion that it wasn't the eye--but the contact. So, with some trepidation, I made an appointment to see the eye doctor.

A year and a half ago, David went to see this same eye doctor, and before all was said and done, David had to run around to a specialist to make sure he didn't have a brain tumor in his head. The eye doctor didn't like the way his eyeballs were looking. It was a great relief when 6 weeks went by and finally the specialist said, "No problem."

Since it was my turn to go to the eye doctor and I always worry that the worst will happen, I was pretty concerned with what he might say. As I sat in the chair and he flipped the lenses and asked me over and over, "Is this better or worse? Which is better, one or two?," I was reminded of the same experience when I was a child.

I have acute astigmatism and my parents took me to the eye doctor at a young age--probably ten. Visiting the optometrist became very traumatic for me--something I never shared with anyone except David--only last week, some 40 years later. As the childhood me sat in the optometrist chair and looked through the lenses, I felt mortified that I couldn't see. It was as if I was failing the test. From that point onward, I dreaded going to the eye doctor. Each time I sat in the chair and struggled to see the letters with the same sinking feelings--I frequently guessed the letters and then prayed that I would be right. No one ever explained to me that this was not a pass/fail exam.

Last week I went into the optometrist office and didn't worry too much about what I could or couldn't see. My eyesight is what it is. The eye doctor didn't tell me that I might have a brain tumor. He did tell me that astigmatism is a natural state for my eyes. Then he ordered me some new contact lenses.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Hate Downward Dog

About four years ago a fellow student in my creative writing class read aloud her poem that used the term "downward dog." Most of my classmates were familiar with this phrase, although I had not heard of it before. The woman sitting beside me explained that it was a yoga position. The term tickled my fancy somewhat, but not enough to inspire me to join a yoga class or do some research into what the downward dog looked like.

All is different now. I am going to yoga, believe it or not, with my friend Janet. She had to do some convincing to get me in the studio door; I postponed my appearance for at least a month. Each of the last two Fridays, however, I have scurried over and met her for class. The first night, I was almost looking forward to it; this was something new and I would learn what all the buzz was about in terms of yoga. The second time, though, I knew what to expect. I wasn't looking forward to it at all.

Based upon my new experience, I have decided that downward dog is my least favorite position. I have to say I don't really have a favorite position. They are all torture. What makes downward dog so unique is the length of time we spend in that pose, with our butts up on the air, and our arms and legs straight supporting our bodies, and our heads down, trying not to collapse on the floor. Yes, downward dog has its challenges.

Now I that I have been through a couple of sessions, I can realistically say that it will be a few years before my body gets used to yoga. I can't recall the position we were in the first night, but the instructor paused next to me, and asked if anything hurt--"Everything hurts!" was my reply to the amusement of my classmates.

I do like how it is a quiet activity. I like the lying on the floor at the end and meditating. I like "namaste" when we are finished. I like the idea of working my body in such a careful, relaxed manner, as opposed to aerobics or running steps in a stadium. I like those things, but it is going to take me a long time to get used to this yoga.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Landscape in Winter

Yesterday I ventured out to my sleeping garden to do some maintenance work in the back of our acre of land. There's a huge brushpile that I would like to dispose of--David, however, is replenishing it as fast as I can bag up sections to put in the trash. I found it covered with a layer of dead leaves that spooked me each time I pulled a branch out to chop up. I have visions of some sneaky animal or, worse yet, a snake living under that brush and leaves during the winter. I was vigilant as I worked, watchful for some greasy little head or a coiled up shape that would send me running for the house.

The flower garden itself is frozen and I like the looks of it. I always let things weather the winter and then chop back the dead stalks in the Spring. Amidst the petrified hollyhocks and allium, my little bird girl stands awaiting the coming of Spring. A pretty little pot and even the birdbath still stand sentinel; I decided not to take them in--I think they add as much interest in the winter as they do in the summer.

It will soon be time to expend a lot more energy outside. For now, I got my fix by cutting up branches. I was relieved that no creature crawled out of that brushpile. I am safe until the next time.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bartering Back Home

My husband, Dave, always admires the amount of bartering we witness when we go back home to Kentucky. He believes that my brother-in-law, Steve, is the supreme deal-maker when it comes time to barter. Yet when I was home two weeks ago, I figured out that Steve doesn't have anything on my dad in that category!

One day I listened as my parents discussed their upcoming dental appointments. For some reason it came up that they go to the dentist regularly, but haven't paid for any dental work in years. As I gathered more information, I began to calculate and have reached the conclusion that they probably haven't paid the dentist in some fifteen years or longer.

My father said he has asked to pay on numerous occasions, but the dentist always says no. The arrangement began when the dentist moved to a new office and needed some electrical work done. So he made a gentleman's agreement with my father: dental work for the company in exchange for electrical work. The "company" includes my father, my mother, my sister, and my brother--all employees. Now the part I found out after I asked a few more questions was that this dentist was enamored of my sister at the time the deal was made.

Both my sister and the dentist were coming out of divorces. They went out on a date, but my sister didn't feel he was the right man for her. In the time since, both have remarried. Nevertheless, the dentist holds tight to the arrangement. My father says that the company did do a lot of electrical work for him at the beginning of the agreement; since then the dentist does little electrical repairs himself because he says he like to!

When my father discussed his worry that he was taking advantage of the dentist, I told him to stop fretting over it and enjoy his arrangement. I think it's a heck of a deal.