My Banjo

I am learning how to play the banjo. My teacher is a wonderful man; patient, funny and supportive. Please send him ear plugs. Learning to play was not on my radar, but when I picked up Roger’s old banjo, I thought “why not?. Maybe it was a way for me to feel closer to him after he died. How on earth would I ever learn to play the banjo? My confidence level hovered around zero. I needed a teacher. I didn’t want to be a beginner, but I got humble real fast. My fingers were complete strangers to the chords. This finger here and next finger there… the result resembled a crab.When I strummed it was obvious that my fingers were not feeling the music. I kept showing up at my lesson time and begging to be let in.

Every great banjo player was at one time, a beginner, just like me. Bela Fleck was not born with a banjo in his hands and even Earl Scruggs had to learn to play banjo. That’s what we humans do; we learn and we practice! I have tried not to practice mistakes, so I play slow before I play fast. I place each finger carefully, press the strings down and strum. I do this over and over until my fingers remember where to go and my brain knows what sound I should hear. Then I do it faster and still correctly. I have practiced a lot of mistakes over my lifetime, and wondered why things just didn’t get better. I have practiced choosing men who were big mistakes, and self hate when these doomed relationships self-destructed. Practice can never make life perfect . After awhile even wrong notes and clumsy technique can sound O.K. When you hear the correct notes and timing you finally realize your version is a mistake and sounds awful. How did I learn to play life so wrong? No one gave me lessons to help me play well and beautifully. The lessons I was taught protected the status quo, and I never knew I had my own music inside me.

So now I can play a few songs on my banjo, my practice is about using the equipment and my new skills to finally make music. It feels amazing to play “Mary had a Little Lamb”. “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” is just around the curve (of planet Earth) but I will get there.  Bluegrass here I come. I don’t mind the slow going on my banjo skills, because I am very concerned about getting it right. I have found the right teacher. Thank you John! Roger is probably laughing at me. I know he is proud of me and so am I.

What Time is It?

Minutes, hours, days, weeks and years. Clocks and calendars do the counting for me. I fill my time, take my time, waste my time and lose track of time.Can I really ” take” my time,or “waste ” my time.? I am not sure, but I am certain that time adds up to be my lifetime. When I am crafting, reading, or writing I often feel that I step out of time. I am often surprised how much time may have passed while I was occupied. As Roger’s dementia was progressing, I was painfully aware that each moment brought new losses and more grief. In each situation, a minute was 60 seconds long, and a day was still 24 hours, but my experience of time was very different.

For the last few months , I have used a lot of my time in conflict with the board of my HOA. My friends, my son, and my sisters might tell you I have been obsessed with this conflict. I hate to admit they are right. I got angry about an injustice to a homeowner, and I set out to prove that I am right, the board is wrong. And while I was at it, I organized a meeting with the board where homeowners could express their grievances with how the board and property manager were not doing their jobs. It was like I jumped into a lake with dirty water contaminated with anger, resentment and righteous indignation. When I got out of the water I carried all these nasties on my skin, and a shower could not wash them away. I was unaware how they infected my life. I wrote letters, speeches and perfect retorts in my head. I vented in emails and I hit the send button. I made lots of phone calls to gather information to prove how right I was. This was how I spent my time when I wasn’t crying in frustration. I actually resigned from the board this spring because I felt shamed at 3 different meetings and each time I went home crying. What was my first clue that this was a toxic group for me!?

Last week, I went to an evening Alanon meeting. When I got home, a nasty email from the board president welcomed me. I had to respond..take this, and this…and you are so wrong! I kept rewriting it to get the right amount of sarcasm. After an hour of this, I stopped and reconsidered. It felt like someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to look at what I was doing. My dog’s beautiful eyes were watching me and I wasn’t paying attention to him. I was hungry and tired and wanted to eat and chill out. And here I was writing a nasty email so that I could “win” a battle of words. What is the truth? Likely the president and I both have bits of truth and bits of misinformation. I am sure of only one truth, I want to spend my time doing what I love. Resentments and judgements steal my time and poison me. Every moment with Roger I tried to focus on him and make a connection. Those moments are infinite.
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz


There was an Old Woman….

I was thinking of nursery rhymes as I was crocheting this morning, my fingers and my mind both wondering along. If you pay attention to content, many nursery rhymes are really not appropriate for children.There are sad rhymes, violent rhymes, and sexist rhymes. I know I tend to overthink, but I have several examples of nursery rhymes that are not rated PG.

There was an old woman
Called Nothing-at-all,
Who lived in a dwelling
Exceedingly small;
A man stretched his mouth
To its utmost extent,
And down at one gulp
House and old woman went

This rhyme screams of sexism, ageism and has the icky element too. The old woman is called “Nothing -at- all”, invisible to the world. She is so without merit that her house is “exceedingly small”. Put her away so we can’t see her. We don’t want to be reminded that we too will grow old and become worthless. Of course, it is “a man” who takes care of the “problem” by eating the old lady and her house. He does it in one gulp! This is not warm and fuzzy.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread.
She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed

Where is the Father or Fathers of all these children? Child support? Joint custody?  The overwhelmed Mother/old woman whipped the children “soundly”. She gave them a “hard and severe” whipping. What a pleasant thought. This old woman needed lots of therapy. I hope the child abuse was investigated. What a dysfunctional mess!

There was an old woman had three sons,
Jerry and James and John,
Jerry was HANGED, James was DROWNED,
And there was the end of her three sons,
Jerry and James and John!

What a sad tale for children. Old women have miserable lives; they get eaten, whip their children, or all their children die before them. Of course, we make them the stars of nursery rhymes for our children. This is not how I want to earn my gold stars.  Old women are not even valued in nursery rhymes, and certainly not by our culture.  I bet Jill tried to talk Jack out of going up the hill to get water….