Monday, April 28, 2008

Good weekend

On Saturday we had the last songwriting workshop. Jeff and Bill presented their songs, which were well received. We all enjoyed the workshop and want to continue. Peter said he'll do another one in June.

Yesterday we moved Jeff and Bills' mom back to the assisted living place she lived in last year. The new place didn't work out so they decided she'd be better off back at the old place. It was much easier moving her this time because we got rid of so much stuff after the first move. Also, her friend picked her up and took her to church while we were working so we didn't have her around to "direct" us. We had lots of help from Bill's daughter and her friends. They did a great job of setting up the room and putting things away. The whole thing went very smoothly.

Last night we went to open mike at the folk center. We all played our new songs and everyone seemed to enjoy them. Jerry introduced me as the "legendary" Donita Smith. Heee!!! I'm a legend! Jeff and Bill did really well and everyone laughed at their songs. It wasn't one of the better open mikes but it had some great moments. The last guy to play got up and said he was from Nashville. So, like, oooooh, a Nashville guy. This is gonna be good. First, he had to borrow a guitar. He spent several minutes messing around with the strap. Then he picked off a riff while the sound guy was setting levels. One of the finger picks came off his finger and got caught on a string. Another few minutes were spent tugging on the string trying to get the pick off. I think the owner of that guitar must have been cringing like crazy. It was pretty funny. I said, "Hey, now set it on fire!" The guy kept asking for more volume in the monitor. Man, he must have been half deaf because the monitor sound was just fine. Then he started playing and he SUCKED.

There was this one kid who got up and said he had just turned 15. Man, he sang like he was channeling a 75-year-old blues singer. The kid was good! I told him he should keep coming back because we'd like to hear more. And then there was Theo who was, as usual, pretty damn funny. He hugged me and said he loved my song and that he wanted my cd. Theo was drunk.

I just went through a bunch of old paperwork issues and got them handled. I found out my money situation is a bit better than I thought. I can get my hands on enough cash to carry me for a good while longer if I need it. It means I won't have to dip into the retirement account. I can relax a little.

Boy, I sure do get tired of dealing with stupid people on the phone. I had to keep explaining to this one woman that the guy who set up this one account has died and I need to get things switched over to my name. She kept telling me that it couldn't be done. Good grief, this is NOT an unusual situation. What is so hard to understand? She finally got it and said she'd send me their change of ownership package. Thanks, brainiac.

Ah, Monday. Back to work.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I hate everybody.

Except you guys. What a morning.

When Jim died the hospital overcharged me $1,900. They notified me in a letter back in August. In September they sent me a check made out in Jim's name. I called them and they said to send it back to them and they'd issue a new one. I called them in November. I called them in March. The other day I got another check made out to Jim. I deposited that one hoping they wouldn't catch it. They did and stopped payment on it. I called them this morning to try once again to get it straightened out. This time they told me they couldn't issue one in my name because of the way Jim signed the consent form at the hospital.

Did anyone hear my head explode this morning?

Jim didn't sign any fucking consent form!!! Don't tell me you can't issue check in my name. Don't tell me you're putting in a "request" for a new check. Don't tell me you'll check to see "if" they'll issue a new check. What I want to hear is, "Yes, ma'am. I will PERSONALLY walk this over to the finance department and TELL them to issue you a new check IMMEDIATELY while I stand there and wait for it and then I will IMMEDIATELY put it in the mail. Please accept our apologies for acting like brainless robots who can't deviate in any way from company policies to correct a human error. You would be well within your rights to demand interest on that $1,900 plus the $11 your bank charged you for the check we stopped payment on. But since that would require a direct order from God, we won't push it. Just know that I will not rest until that check, with your name on it, is in your hands."

That's what I want to hear.

After that I drove to Kaiser for a check-up. Ok, a word of advice here. Don't try dealing with a heartless, brainless bureaucracy just before a doctor's appointment where the first thing they will do is take your blood pressure. It actually wasn't that bad but they did have to take it twice to get a better reading. I was also pleasantly surprised that I haven't gained as much weight as I thought. I'm only up seven pounds from last year. I talked to the doc about the numbness I occasionally feel in my right leg and she thinks it's just a sciatica problem. Gotta get to that chiropractor. I also told her about my anxiety attack and she said not to worry about it unless it happens again. She said taking the Xanax and the propranolol was the right thing to do. So, that was all good. Next, the mammo.

I went downstairs to get the mammogram. The gown they gave me probably would have fit Virginia perfectly. I went to the mammo waiting room an found myself surrounded by women wearing gowns that would have kept Mama Cass nicely covered. WTF? I was sitting there struggling to keep one boob covered. I had to hold a magazine in front of me. My mood deteriorated further. When the technician came to get me I asked for a bigger gown. She handed me one that was the same size as the one I had on. Oh well, at least it was bigger than a magazine.

The mammogram I had last year was the best one ever. That technician really knew what she was doing and the whole procedure was only mildly uncomfortable. This bone head was the complete opposite. In fact, it was the most painful mammogram I've ever had. She pinched my skin and dug her fingernails into me. She didn't tell me how to position myself, she just pushed me and pulled on my skin. And she kept trying to chat with me. Any blind retard could have seen that I was ready to lose it. The tone of her voice was condescending. She asked me three times if I had any questions. At one point while she was blathering on and I was crunched in that vise I just told her, "You have to hurry." I think that's when she finally got that I was ready to go off. Afterward, she had me change my clothes in the mammography room instead of going back to the dressing room.

After that I went to Norm's for some breakfast. The orange juice was warm and my breakfast was cold. Perfect.

I'm going to work now. After that I'm walking the Rube. I need it!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Did stuff on Saturday, goofed off on Sunday

There's so much that needs to be done around here but sometimes you just gotta take a day off, y'know?

On Saturday the boys and I went to LA for the song writing workshop. We went early because Peter had a concert that afternoon. He invited all the workshop participants to attend. More about that later. This time Peter talked a lot about using metaphors in song writing. I liked the way he presented the idea. He talked about using metaphors as keys, like keys in music. He used the song Julia as an example. There's lots of ocean imagery in that song so he described it as being in the "key of ocean". He really gives us a lot of good material and I haven't been utilizing it as much as I should. I need to take the time and read the handouts he gives us. It's a lot of material. I need to get it into a notebook so it's not a lot of loose sheets.

Towards the end of the class he asked if anyone wanted to present their song. No one was stepping up so I said I'd go first. It felt a little goofy. We had just been deconstructing John Lennon and Tom Waits and here I am about to present my middle-aged teenager song. But I sang it and people liked it. Got some great feedback from Peter. Jeff and Bill were ready to present theirs but this doofus dude who has a tendency to waste class time with stupid questions said he'd go next. His song wasn't ready at all! And he was a sucky guitar player. He played louder than he sang so you couldn't hear the words he was mumbling. When he was done singing he tried to explain what he was trying to do with the song. He wanted it to be about this girl he works with who is young and just starting her life. He wants to juxtapose her story with this old woman he knows and oh yeah, there's some guy who sells oranges he also wants to put in the song. WTF? I think even a very skilled song writer would have trouble fitting all that together in one song. AND the first line in the song is "Lizzie's in a tizzy..." Puh-leeez! Jeff and Bill never did get to sing their songs because this guy took up all the rest of the class time.

After that we drove to UCLA (Eek! Parking!) for Peter's concert. It was a big event with concerts going on all around the music building. Peter's part of it was an informal panel in the band room. It was him, a couple of guys who call themselves I See Hawks Over LA and this woman named Laura Love. God gawd, Laura Love was sooo much fun. I'd never heard of her but I left there with two of her cd's. She's a kick-ass bass player with an amazing voice. I loved her songs and her dancey and humorous performance. And I really enjoyed seeing Peter perform. The other two guys didn't grab me much. After the show we walked into town and had lunch at BJ's.

When I got home Lindsay's birthday party was in full swing. I sang my song for them and hung out for a while. Then I went to my room so they could have the rest of he house. On Sunday I was lazy. The only thing I did was organize my music notebook. I also cleaned my room (mostly). Watched the last episode of John Adams. Interesting that he and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, July 4, 1826, fifty years after the birth of the country. And after watching that show you might think that 200 years ago everyone died with their eyes open.

This morning I took Katie and Boz to the vet. Katie is doing much better. I think she's going to be with us for a while. I just have to take her in for fluids every once in a while and feed her some special food. I sure would like to fatten her up a bit.

Ok, breakfast, shower, work. Here we go again.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ok, here it is

The Teenage Ravings of a Middle-aged Woman

I'm way past my prime,
no longer a cutie
Gray hairs on my head,
got a 50-year-old booty
If life is a movie,
please hit the rewind
I'm a middle-aged woman
with a teenager's mind

I'm wearing lots of make-up and teasing my hair
And filling my top drawer with thong underwear
But the clothes that they're selling don't fit my behind
I'm a middle-aged woman with a teenager's mind

Then I'll say, give it up, knock it off, you old fool
But that's where the silliness starts
Soon I'm filling up notebooks with only your name
And dotting the i's with hearts

I'm looking at men in a different way
I'm out on the prowl. You poor saps are just prey
The young ones are cute but the old ones are blind
I'm a middle-aged woman with a teenager's mind

Then I'll say give it up, knock it off, you old fool
This is no way for a mother to act
My daughters are anxious, pissed off and embarrassed
And thinking the old bitch has cracked

I don't have the hormones I had in my youth
I'm tired and I'm cranky, if you must know the truth
But in my head there's a kegger, in my loins, a rock band
And you can have a listen but you gotta use your hand

Then I'll say give it up, knock it off, you old fool
Your ship hasn't sailed, it has sunk
Just take this advice and have a big yard sale
or find a new use for your junk

I'm a little more desperate than I was yesterday
I'm looking at appliances in a meaningful way
If I don't get some soon I'm afraid I'll go blind
I'm a middle-aged woman with a teenager's mind.

I sang it for the gals at work yesterday. They enjoyed it, made me sing it twice. Last night the boys and I shared our songs. Bill's is about dinosaurs and Jeff wrote one about taking a pill to cure all your ills. They're still a little rough but I think they're going to be really good songs, especially Jeff's.

Hooray, it's Friday! Song workshop tomorrow. We're going early because Peter had a scheduling conflict. We'll do the workshop in the morning and then go to his concert in the afternoon. Lindsay is having her birthday party tomorrow. I'm putting together some party food but mostly they'll be on their own. That's a first. My kids are grown.

Ok, back to work.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vacuum cleaner

Today's object writing.

Vacuum cleaner, vacuum cleaner
You suck

Ha ha

Oh, the wonders of nature
You hold in your bag
Dead skin cells, dust mites
That one diamond earring

You stand at attention
And wait for me to use you
I think you've been there two weeks

But today's your big day
Party this weekend
Ukes tonight
Do your stuff
Make it look cleaner
Than it actually is

Monday, April 14, 2008

I have a song!

I didn't like the one I was working on. Too much navel gazing. I mean, I liked it as a poem but as a song, not so much. It has some good lines in it, though. I'll put it away and work on it again when I'm ready. But I've just been through a year of a downer. Time for something light and randy.

Some of the stuff I was writing sounded like something out of a 15-year-old's diary. At one point I wrote- These sound like teenage ravings! Bingo. Got a song out of it. I call it The Teenage Ravings of a Middle-aged Woman. I'm not going to post it yet. I have to present it to Jeff and Bill first.

It gets a little dirty in places. I didn't mean for that to happen, it just took off that way. Fortunately, it's the kind of song you can keep writing verses for so I'll write some cleaner ones for a mixed audience. And don't read anything into the lyrics about my sexuality. I'm just having a bit of fun. Really, I'm quite normal. Boring, even. Normal and boring. Yep. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

Kyle put it nicely. He said, "Sometimes funny is more important than true."

But, whee, it's a song! I'm just glad I'll have something to present on Saturday. It'll also be fun to finally have a new song for open mike. I was beginning to worry that Bosom would be my last song.

I just got back from walking the Rube. I'm blissed out on endorphins.

Today Dr. Deb found some bugs in her office. Lots of 'em. They were swarming termites. I looked them up on Google. When subterranean termites move to start a new colony the breeders fly off in a swarm. When they find a place they like, they land and shed their wings. Dr. Deb's windowsills were covered in crawling bugs and broken off wings. They gave her the willies. Actually, they gave everyone in the office the willies except me. For me it was like the Discovery Channel.

Yesterday Jeff and Bill and I played for the grand opening of this smoothie place that their old next-door neighbors own. We were scrunched together in one little corner. Pretty silly, really. The blender was going almost the whole time so we were constantly being drowned out. Jeff picked up their mom and brought her along. It's always nice for her to get out whenever she can. She sat next to us in her wheelchair. She kept trying to talk to us but it's hard to understand her even in a quiet room. There, it was next to impossible. I really tried to listen to her but with the blender and a uke on either side of me I couldn't hear a word she said.

They paid us in smoothies. Ahem... Bill said they might cough up some cash, eventually.

I went to see Dad today. He looked pretty good and we even had an actual conversation. His aphasia was barely noticeable and he wasn't dopey. It was a short visit because he fell asleep. I tried talking to him in case it was just a little catnap but no, he was pretty well out. That's the best I've seen him look in a long time.

Tonight is the first time I've had the AC on since we moved here. I'm indulging in cool air. Better set that thermostat.

Mmmm, endorphins...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Half a Brain

For thirty years
I had half a brain
And I didn't know it
You had half a brain, too

Together they made one life
Your half and my half
Now you're gone and I still have half a brain

How can I make decidions with half a brain?
Half baked, half cocked
Half out of my mind

Half of who I was
Half of what I knew
Half of what I made
Half the failure, too

Half of everything I knew is gone
Well, I never knew that stuff
I didn't have to because you knew it
What I needed to know was stored in your brain

You had half a brain, too
But that doesn't matter now
It's all mine

You made sure certain things were taken care of
I didn't have to think about those things
If I needed to, you would tell me

After stumbling through that year
And making so many mistakes
I realized one day that the reason so many things
were falling through the cracks is
I'm still trying to handle a full life
with half a brain

So, now what?
I can't keep living life with half a brain
Start over
Grow some cells

This might end up being a song someday.

Today's object writing

Green glass

Someone threw it away
Worthless waste of a process
Not useful, left over
To my fourth grade eyes

It was bigger than my dad's fist
Smooth in places
Chipped in others
But, oh, those chips
Semi-circles, layers of circles
Like bullet holes in a window pane
But pretty

Turn it over in your hands
But be careful, it can cut you
Feel the smooth places
Like water made hard
Turn it over
And over
Big finale, hold it to the light


You enter with a splash
And disappear

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Happy Birthday, Lindsay!!!!!!!!!

Twenty-three years of cuteness and light.

I love you!


Here's what I wrote yesterday. I didn't write first thing in the morning like we're supposed to. I did this at work.

Late night with a sick cat
Late night with a buzzy brain
Too bad, early morning anyway
Sitting here at work
Empty office beckons
I could go in there
shut the door, turn out the light
lay on the floor and get some sleep
Or sit here
facing the computer
pen in hand
but asleep
Who would know?

Then this-

We have that empty office that no one is using.
It's quiet and dark, just perfect for snoozing.

I also have some verses for a song about using that office in another way.

There's an adjustable chair
That rocks and turns
Or we could try the floor
Don't mind the rug burns

The desk is empty
And big as a bed
No, I'll bump the wall
With the top of my head.

I also have the beginnings of a song about Bernie, Jim's dad's bitch girlfriend. Ken told me the last time he visited them Bernie was talking crap about Lindsay. She's bent out of shape because Lindsay didn't introduce Kyle to her at Jim's farewell party. I do agree that she should have introduced Kyle to Bernie. It's not every day you get to meet the nastiest bitch on the planet, so that was a missed opportunity. I'd love to see how Kyle would draw her.

I did write some stuff this morning but it's way too personal to share here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What Tarot card are you?

Virginia had this on her blog and I thought it was fun. Go ahead, take the test!

You are Strength

Courage, strength, fortitude. Power not arrested in the act of judgement, but passing on to further action, sometimes obstinacy.

This is a card of courage and energy. It represents both the Lion's hot, roaring energy, and the Maiden's steadfast will. The innocent Maiden is unafraid, undaunted, and indomitable. In some cards she opens the lion's mouth, in others she shuts it. Either way, she proves that inner strength is more powerful than raw physical strength. That forces can be controlled and used to score a victory is very close to the message of the Chariot, which might be why, in some decks, it is Justice that is card 8 instead of Strength. With strength you can control not only the situation, but yourself. It is a card about anger and impulse management, about creative answers, leadership and maintaining one's personal honor. It can also stand for a steadfast friend.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Write a song

Today Jeff, Bill and I went to LA for the first session of a song writing workshop. Peter Case is teaching it. I don't know much about Peter Case. He's been nominated three times for a Grammy. Michael saw him in concert and said he really liked him. Jeff and Bill saw him at the Folk Center. That's all I know. The workshop has four sessions and there are twelve people in the class. I found him to be quite a likeable guy and he really seems to know his shit.

We did this exercise where we had to write for five minutes about a frying pan. Jeff did this pretty cool riff that was just chock full of almost touchable images. Peter said it would make a good rap with a blues guitar accompaniment. I think it would, but it kind of makes me think of a beatnik scene in a cheesy 60's movie. There's this guy sitting on a stage in a smoke-filled coffee house playing blues guitar and rapping about a greasy frying pan? Man, that's ka-raaazee!

Our homework for the week is to write about some random object for ten minutes every morning, start keeping a list of song titles (that we make up), and write a song. It'll be interesting to see what we come up with.

After the workshop we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant. Jeff and Bill, not wanting to waste any time, dove right in and started writing a song about nipples. Yes, nipples. I may have contributed a word or two but the project really belongs to the boys. On the way home Bill got out a uke and came up with some chords and a functional melody. The song began to take shape. I was caught in a storm of nipple references. At one point I started to have an uncomfortable physical reaction and had to kind of hold onto myself as I drove home. It was as if my nipples were saying, "Hey, man, are you talking about us?"

When we got back to Riverside we met up with Virginia and their sister, Pam, at Barnes and Noble. She's visiting from PA. We bought a few books and then went to the California Pizza kitchen for drinks and a visit. Bill had bought a rhyming dictionary. Jeff took it and started looking up rhymes for nipple. The best one was participle. Then Pam said, "Dangling participle" and much laughter ensued.

Quite a good day.