Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Tangels

Mrs Tangel was a neighbor lady who lived next door to me when I was growing up on Long Island. She was glamorous, friendly and strict with her four boys. I admired her, so any attention made me feel special.

Mr Tangel was a tall, gangly man who chased me and my sisters around the front yard, asking for kisses. It was our silly game- he would chase us, we would scream, he'd gave up and we'd all laugh. Wait- we weren't like, teenagers. We were little. You got that, right?

I used to play with their dog, Snoopy, through the fence until I was given permission to go in the yard any time I wanted to play fetch with her. Snoopy appreciated it so much that she left a thank you gift for me one day.

Through the years our two families became more than neighbors. Mrs Tangel was with my mom the day my grandmother died. My mother was Nana's caregiver- tending to her in our back bedroom while Nana disappeared into cancer. The day Nana stopped breathing, Mrs Tangel came over and said a prayer with my mom. Then she offered support while they waited for my dad to come home.

My father and Mr Tangel had an ongoing friendly feud over the Mets vs The Yankees. We were a Yankee household all the way even though my Dad was the only one who actually watched the games. Still, I was impressed when I heard that Mrs. Tangel was a Lady Met! No, I still don't have a clue what that is.

Eventually I moved away and married. One year me, my parents and The Tangels happened to all be in Florida at the same time, albeit in different towns. Mom and I drove over to our neighbors' winter condo for lunch.

We got a tour of the place, finishing up on the balcony, sitting and sipping iced tea. As we looked out at the water, Mrs Tangel told us this story:

Mr and Mrs T had two social invitations one night. They got dressed up and went to the first party. Mrs Tangel had forgotten something at the condo, so they ran by to pick it up. They could hear music coming from a nearby restaurant and paused to listen. A momentary pause turned into a glass of wine on the balcony where they could see the band down below. One glass became two until they found themselves dancing alone together in the condo, all dressed up. Mrs T said they never made it to the second party.

I love that story. The Tangels were like an aunt and uncle to me. It was nice to know that they still had evenings where all they wanted to do was be alone and dance. And now that they're gone, I see them twirling in the heavens, Mrs Tangles' skirt swinging, their faces beaming, happy just to be together.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Last month I found myself sleeping in the attic of the oldest structure in Maine on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. "Say what??" you ask.  "Hang on, I'll tell ya," I reply. Or maybe I'll say, "No one says, 'Say what,' anymore! Update your exclamations!"

Well, now you made me forget what we were talking about. Oh yeah, scary places to sleep. Anyway, my sister, Nancy, and her husband, Dick, have been working and playing on a group of small islands off the coast of New Hampshire for many years now. They are The Isles of Shoals and are located 6 miles out to sea.

Star Island is the biggest among the islands and is where conferences are held.

It was originally settled in the 1600s, so naturally ghost stories abound. Ghost Hunters did a show out there, in fact,  but that's a blog post for another day.

My scary attic was on Smuttynose Island, which sits across the water from Star Island. Nancy and Dick volunteered to be caretakers out there for a week and invited us to visit.

There is no electricity or plumbing on the island. But there is sweet peace, blowing through the grassy fields, rolling down the rocky shore, and sweeping the hair off my face as we approached by boat. And there are seagulls. Lots and lots of seagulls.

And all the seagulls had baby seagulls.

Anyone who knows me well knows that- despite my age, intelligence and common sense- I'm a big ole baby when it comes to ghosts. I have no idea if they exist but I ain't sleeping alone if there's the slightest possibility one may be skulking around. Hey! There's a cemetery out there, man. Don't judge me.

You can imagine how I felt about sleeping upstairs on this lonely island without the distraction of The Real Housewives or  Dateline. OMG, Dateline! Glad I couldn't watch a murder mystery on Smuttynose. The island was the scene of a couple of murders in the 1800s. Thanks for reminding me.

I made my son sleep nearby that night and we kept a lantern on. We had the screened windows open, allowing a cool breeze in. The moon provided more light than I would have expected, so I turned the lantern off. I laid back and listened to the odd sounds seagulls make: a caw you could swear was a cat and a cry that sounds like a baby. The next thing I knew it was 8:00 in the morning.

Coffee was ready on the propane stove. Jamie was off fishing, Dick was out being an island caretaker and Nancy was checking for news on her phone. (We picked up wifi from Star.) I had my coffee my favorite way: outside.

We spent the day island-hopping. Nan and Dick had permission to visit a private island to pick strawberries so we started there.

Next stop was Star Island where we were able to buy a snack and use a real bathroom.

Hold on- Smuttynose has one of the nicest outhouses I've ever seen, but you know. Outhouse.

The afternoon was spent on Appledore Island where brainy college kids study the sea and its creatures.

Back on our breezy chunk of land, we dined on grilled steak and a pot of mussels Jamie collected on the shore. Delish.

What mussels we didn't finish, we gave to the seagulls. We moved inside for a game of scrabble while the sun took it's sweet time sliding down into the ocean.

Lanterns were lit, wine was poured and scrabble words were challenged.

At the end of the game Nancy claimed she couldn't read our scores in the dim light and decided she must have won. With a little help from her flashlight-welding husband, I was declared the winner. Quite a feat since Nancy's a brainiac and Jamie's a game-aholic. Yay, me!

I slept heavily and long once again. We packed up later in the morning and waited for our ride down at the...lagoon? If Gilligan can call it that, I guess I can, too.

Thirty minutes later we were back at our car. I'm still thinking about our quick trip to The Isles of Shoals and how all that quiet and all that nature somehow got inside me. I feel calmer. I'm sleeping better. Ghosts? phsaw! I ain't scared of no ghost. But if, in a quiet, contemplative moment I should suddenly screech like a seagull who sounds like a cat, don't call 911. I'm just reliving a peaceful memory.

On a side note, The shootings at Pulse nightclub happened right before we arrived on Smuttynose. Even out there, on that isolated island, the flag was raised at half-mast.

What a world.

What a beautiful world.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jamie's College Graduation

the Dixie Chicks

Who doesn't know what I'm talking about
Who's never left home, who's never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young boy's dream no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for him, he hasn't yet guessed

He needs wide open spaces
Room to make the big mistakes
He needs new faces
He knows the high stakes

He traveled this road as a child
Wide eyed and grinning, he never tired
But now he won't be coming back with the rest
If these are life's lessons, he'll take the test

He needs wide open spaces
Room to make the big mistakes
He needs new faces
He knows the high stakes.

As his folks drive away, his dad yells, "Check the oil!"
Mom stares out the window and says, "I'm leaving my boy"
She said, "It didn't seem like that long ago”
When she stood there and let her own folks know

She needed wide open spaces
Room to make the big mistakes
She needed new faces
She knows the high stakes

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Six Years

This is from an old interview. Interesting.

Taylor: Yeah, well, I gotta get into the studio. I got a couple more cowrites to do. I don't want to make the record like I made the last record. I want to take the time and be able to find the right players to fit the song. You have to really get it right. You have to get the music right. That's kind of where I'm at. I'm gonna take a little break and then get into the studio and make the songs that I have in my repertoire right now that I want to put on the record. I really want to make them right.
That just takes time, you know. I watched something on TV with Fiona Apple. And after Fiona Apple's 2nd record, she took six years to record her next album, you know"

Me: Wow

Taylor: Yeah. But, you know, she wanted to get it right. You have to really get it right. You have to get the music right. That's kind of where I'm at.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Craft Fair Conundrum

Most people don't sign up to be vendors at craft fairs to make money. At least, that's what I'm learning. I was one many moons ago when I honestly didn't care about making a profit. I only did a few a year specifically to clear out all the crap I had made with beads.

I went through a phase where I was obsessed with beads, glorious beads!! I could spend a happy evening merely sorting their various shapes and colors. But to make something beautiful out of them, ah, that was the dream. I made jewelry (natch), but I also made sparkling Christmas ornaments and twinkling sun-catchers. I didn't have a clue how much it cost me to make each item but my husband and I agreed it had to be less expensive than therapy. Beading made me happy.

Now that I'm older and not any dumber, I decided I really, really want to make money off my crafts. You know that feeling you get when you create something wonderful? I assume even right-brain people feel it, when they've done an excellent job on their spreadsheet (or whatever the heck it is that they do). It's a rush of satisfaction deep inside, like finally hitting that high note or smacking a baseball over the fence. Yeah. Well, I'd like to turn that feeling into cash.

Focusing on my photos seems to make sense since I have a bursting collection of beautiful images on my computer. It ain't my camera skills that created them- it's the beautiful surroundings that seemed to simply appear in front of me while we were in Canada and in the Hill Country of Texas.

Knowing that bluebonnet season is a big deal here in The Lone Star State, I made greeting cards, coasters and pillows using some kick-ass photos of bluebonnets I took last year. That's right. Coasters and pillows! No lie.

The photo below is not of some oddly upholstered arm chair. These are all the squares of fabric I ran through my printer before sewing each one into an 8x8 inch pillow.

The finished product is small, but I think they're adorable.


Greeting cards:

I also put together a batch of  plants in little clay pots. The plants are artificial from Michaels and the clay pots are....wait for it...recycled Keurig cups! Did your head just explode? No? Then I need to work on my writing skills. But enough about things that will never happen, look at them!

Fake plants in fake pots = FUN.

Once I felt I had enough adorable things to sell, I signed up for a local craft fair. Woo-hoo!

The morning of the fair, I dragged myself out of bed and felt like sobbing. What the heck had I done? How could I sign up for an event where random strangers were going to walk by, judging my work, judging ME? Not to mention the vendors on either side of me, who would look at my wares and be all, you know, judgy. Girl, this was judgement DAY. And let's not forget that I have social anxiety. I can't speak to people I don't know. Waahh!!

But, by golly, I dug down deep, gave myself a pep talk, squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and, um...let go and let God? OK, I'll be honest. I did none of that. Instead I performed a little play in my head about a wife (played by me) telling her husband (played by mine) that she had given actual money to rent space at a fair but didn't feel like going. And off I went.

Here are my sad little tables:

I like my stuff, I just wish I had had MORE. The other vendors were seasoned pros. They knew what they were doing and practically danced a ballet while setting up their extensive inventory. They also knew how to schmooze the unsuspecting shoppers. "Hey! How you doing? How's your day going?" Before these people knew what was happening, they were forking over money for a quilted toaster cover.

"Have a great day!" my competitors called as these happy people moved on to my table. As my customers looked over my stuff and then at me, a puzzled look would creep over their faces. I attempted to put them at ease by diving under my table, pretending I dropped something.

Every single person was amused by my fake potted plants. "Oh my God, look! Those are Keurig cups!" they'd say, prompting me to peek out from under my tablecloth. "You are VERY clever!" They'd look my clever creations over, show them to friends and carefully put them back. "Look! Quilted tea cozies!" And they were gone.

The other vendors were incredibly nice. In fact, the day turned into more of a chat-fest and less of a fair, since we had nobody to sell our stuff to. To say we had a poor turn out would be like saying Kim Kardashian's butt is a tad large.

The woman next to me remarked that the day she starts doing fairs for the money is the day she'll quit. Nods all around. "Well, that sucks," I thought, since I'm in it for the lettuce, the do-re-mi, the chedda, yo. Hmm...now that I'm thinking about it, I may have said that last part out loud because the group suddenly scattered, looking scared.

So there's the conundrum.  I love to make things. I dare say, I NEED to make things. But I don't have enough window sills for all of my artificial succulents, or enough cups to justify all of the coasters I made. Pillows? Well, a girl can't have enough pillows. Right, guys?

The money I made covered the cost to rent the space, but that's not exactly what I was going for. There has to be a better way. I'm aware of Etsy and other sites like it. That may be the way to go for a socially awkward creative person. Stay tuned!