a quest for the joy in writing…

I started this blog because I was going to Australia, and wanted to share the adventure with others, but it was also to help me remember how much I love to write. The reasons and the goals for beginning this, they’ve been achieved…. and now, I’ve lost my purpose.

Don’t misunderstand, this is not a preface to informing you that I’m finished with this blog. But I’ve been struggling to find things to write about, without the neverending delight of children to share about. No offense to college students and college professors, but they just aren’t as interesting as kids. So, my job as a cashier is not a source for hilarious stories that I want to share.

I’ve been struggling with this for a while now, feeling guilty that I’m not writing, telling myself I should go do something interesting or go visit a new and exciting place. But then I run into another problem, being a little short on money right now. Yes, I may seem a bit reclusive to some, but it’s because I’m trying to spend my money wisely, and this doesn’t allow for weekly road trips.

And if you’re paying any attention to the news right now, I’m extremely distracted by the political situation, and the recent attacks in Libya, which resulted in the murders of our countrymen. I spend a lot of time on my computer, keeping up with the news.

When I’m not working or keeping up with foreign policy, I’ve been taking baby steps on what I call my “little writing project”, which has something to do with my Australia blogs. I won’t explain further, but once I get past being scared of starting, I’ll be heavily involved with that. So, I’m already stumped about what to write on this blog, and then my conscience is bothering me about something else that I should be doing. However, once I start, I will enjoy it, I know. It’s a funny cycle.

And so, while I’ve become aware of the boringness of college students, I’m looking into some local nanny agencies, so that maybe sometime in the future, I’ll have more nanny tales to share with you. Until then, I’m taking some “official” time off from this blog, anywhere from two weeks to a month, while I sort out what my future plans are for this blog.

I used to write what I wanted, and not care what anyone thought of it. Now, I write what’s somewhat interesting to me, and then go check my stats to see if others agree. Which is not the way to make you feel good about yourself, judging yourself by blog statistics. This needs to change.

When I return, I will have a game plan for the future, perhaps that I will write one blog every two weeks, on any particular subject, but I will really take my time over it, and give it my all. Some sort of goal to reach for, a rule to follow, until I see what the Lord has for me next, job-wise. A life of cashiering is not for me, and so, I need to look for my next occupation.

I hope you will bear with me, and come back to reading my blog, when I return. I’m going looking for the joy in writing, because I misplaced it somewhere. Thanks for being there for me, up til now!

thank you for your appreciation…

I’ve been on the road for the last two days, so it has taken me a little while to become aware that I was nominated for another award. Forgive me for being slow, I’m still pretty tired. Genie Speaks has been kind enough to give me the Reader Appreciation Award for being one of 10-12 bloggers that she enjoys reading. It is wonderful to know that so many people enjoy what I write, and I can’t thank Genie enough for the compliment she has given me.

However, I’m not sure how best to explain this… Since I have just moved to Minnesota, I’m still on the shady side of exhausted, and I have to get used to a new area, a new home, a new host family, and starting early in the morning, I have a lot of things on my mind. Passing this award on should not be that difficult. I can answer the questions, and I would like to do so.

But having just recently accepted another award for being a Versatile Blogger, I’ve already listed some of the blogs that I enjoy reading, and most of them do not pass on awards when they’re given. So, I find myself drawing a complete blank on who else to pass this one on to, but I don’t want to ignore the fact that it was given. Does that make sense? I think I need a month or two to get acclimated and let my blog list grow, so I have some new ones to share with you.

So, if I’m allowed to do this, I would like to say thank you, and accept the Reader Appreciation Award, but I would also like to direct you to my post from last month (hooray for the versatile blogger!) to show you who I’m enjoying reading, at present. I’m sorry if the buck stops here, this time, but I know that Genie has passed the award on to a number of other bloggers who will have a longer blog list than I do!  : )

And for your further reading enjoyment, I will both answer the ten questions AND tell you what’s on my mind today.

 

The Ten Questions:

-What is your favorite color?

I’ve always said that my favorite color is green, but come to think of it, my closet doesn’t really back that up. I have a lot of blue and fall colors. But you know what? I just like green!

-What is your favorite animal?

I’m not sure if I have a favorite animal. I think dolphins are fascinating, and so cheerful, but having just come from Australia, I think I’m going to say a wombat. And that’s entirely judging from the ones in the children’s books, I’ve only seen them in a zoo. But The Muddleheaded Wombat is so darling, as is Diary of a Wombat.

-What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?

I’m from the South, so I love sweet tea. But I don’t drink it too often, because all that sugar’s bad for me.

-Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook. I do have a Twitter account, but that’s mainly so that I can follow other people. I find it fascinating that people will follow me on Twitter when I never say anything.

-What’s your passion?

Reading. Blogging. Taking pictures. I suppose reading would be the highest on the list. Traveling and spending time with friends and family.

-What’s your favorite pattern?

Pattern? Are we talking stripes and polka dots, or knitting? Having given it some serious reflection, I prefer polka dots to knitting.

-What’s your favorite number?

Afraid I don’t have one. Besides, don’t people use their favorite numbers in important passwords and thing? Shouldn’t give those away.

-Favorite day of the week?

Saturday. Yes, I’m afraid that I love to sleep in.

-Favorite flower?

Oh, there are so many beautiful flowers, but who doesn’t love to receive roses in a bouquet? Ok, I know one person that doesn’t, but aside from that… I’ll stick with roses.

 

What’s on my mind today:

Well, firstly, I’m wondering how long it’s going to take me to unpack everything. It looks a lot smaller in here with all my stuff spread out on the floor. But once it’s all put away, I can condense a lot of it into the suitcases, and it won’t look so crowded. Having driven down to Kohl’s and Target, earlier, I’m still trying to take in the lay of the land. There are lots of new housing developments, and then you’ll come upon fields and fields of corn, and power lines as far as the eye can see. Then you’ll see a school, and the back end of a shopping center will burst upon you, and then the cycle starts again. The land is somewhat flat, so sometimes I can see in the distance, and sometimes, the view is tantalizingly out of my line of sight. There are a lot of things to take in about my new home for the next year, and not least of them is that I get to start looking after the kids, tomorrow! Whew.

 

Thank you for coming by, thank you for all your kind comments and just generally showing me that you enjoy what I write. Please stick with me, and in another month or three, I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with some more people to pass the love on to!

i missed it!

I began writing this blog on April 9, 2011. My intention was to make it easier for my friends to keep up with my doings in Australia. I didn’t want to have to answer fifty million letters asking me “how are things in Australia?”. I didn’t want to have to send my e-mails to hundreds of people. But I did want everyone back home to get a taste of what it’s really like to be in Australia.

My other hope was that once I got the blog started, I would start wanting to write again. Whether it was just on the blog, writing fiction, or writing songs… I just wanted to regain the habit of writing. Of course, with all my letter writing, I’ve never really lost it. But somewhere along the line, I lost the NEED to write.

I think that I’ve accomplished so much more than my original goals. Not only do I keep my friends and family up-to-date, I’ve written much more than just about what I see and what I do. As most of you will know by now, I love to read, like to watch movies, and enjoy listening to good music. Therefore, I write about these subjects that interest me. Some are old favorites, some are just discovered, but I can still tell you about them. Sometimes I veer off into my cooking adventures, a weekend in a state park, or the politics at home. Always, there are tales to tell about my girls, and the adventures of life with a toddler.

Some people say that life is fun, some say it’s exciting… well, I say that it’s just plain interesting! And I’m not using the word “interesting” in the sense of “I’m being polite, though I’m bored, so I’ll just use that word, instead of the word nice“. Instead, I mean that life is full of things that are worthy of interest, things that we should pay attention to them. Your day might not be exciting, but chasing the chooks out of the house was interesting. Humorous, too.

And what else is a blog for, if not to tell others what you see, what there is to be interested in? Having a blog that you write in almost every day, gives you a viewpoint where you’re actually looking even harder to find things that are noteworthy. You observe everything around you, taking it in, and looking for an angle to tell a story. There’s a story there, you just need to find it.

These are just some of my first thoughts on what I’ve learned during a year of blogging. I’m quite tired right now, so I can’t do better than that, at the moment. But over the next few weeks, I hope to talk about what I’ve learned in the last year, about writing, about myself, or about Australia. I came over here with some ideas about what Australia would be like. How has my viewpoint changed since then? And has Australia changed, or just me?

Lots of thoughts to get through. I’ll share some more with you soon. For now, sleep! Then, more packing!

cool, quiet, & coffee…

I never thought that McDonald’s would turn into my place of quiet and retreat, but that seems to be the way things are turning out. For the present, at least. There are times, by the end of the day, when you just want to go somewhere quiet and cool, to relax and just enjoy your evening of freedom. But my room is on the second floor, summer is approaching (but feels like it’s already arrived), and the AC guy didn’t show up, last week.

This week, he’s supposed to come on Wednesday, and install my room’s air conditioner, and I’m counting down until my AC arrives. I love being able to relax, sit at my desk, and catch up on e-mail and blogging. Or sit and read a book. But when your room is regularly around 85-90° Fahrenheit, you can’t really relax.

I think my sojourns to Mickey D’s began when I had lost my appetite for a week or two. Nothing against Maccas’ food, but this meant that I wasn’t going to Bogey’s for my favorite potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili. I couldn’t eat them, so I didn’t want to go there for coffee, knowing I couldn’t have my favorite meal. But the McCafe has some pretty good mochas, as well as some good selections of muffins, cake, and scones. And they’re well air-conditioned, so I can get my coffee and go read quietly in a corner for a while.

Maybe you think this sounds pretty sad, that I have to go there to “get away”, but I think everyone has these times, and the heat just put me a little over the edge. Well, the heat, which causes me to sweat, and the rash I got from an allergic reaction to medication… let’s just say that if you’re sweating, then you’re itching and you want to scratch like insanity. Yeah, I know it sounds lovely, but that’s where the heat sent me, and why I had to run to McD’s. By this Wed, I shouldn’t have that necessity anymore, I hope, with both rash cleared up and AC installed. Life will thenceforth be perfect.  : )

So, for anyone wondering why my blog posts have hit a lull, it isn’t because I’m so sick that I can’t write. It’s because I’ve hit a lull, mentally, just for the time being. Not that I don’t have things to write about. I think that if you blog, you spend a little bit of your time worrying about what people think of you, especially when they know you personally AND read your blog. I know, it’s silly, but it DOES crop up, now and then, so I’ve got to push through it.

Also, there are days when you force yourself to write, and you hate everything you write, even when you’re telling yourself that it’s good for you. For the last month or so, I’ve been working at having a post up, every single day, and I was enjoying the challenge and the excitement in looking for something to write about. Paying attention to life around me, the little things and the big things. Telling myself that there’s always something to write about, you just have to look for it.

And then I wasn’t feeling well and had to go to the doctor and pay several arms and legs for blood tests. No, I don’t have travel insurance, and no, I can’t use my health savings account from the U.S., while I’m over here. But yes, I’m earning enough to pay for it, so I really shouldn’t be whining, it’s just frustrating.

But with little or no energy at the end of the day, I finally had to tell myself that it really WAS okay to not post every single day. It just about killed me to see my stats page with no blog post listed by each bar. But I had nothing to write and no energy to write, on some of those days, so I had to keep reminding myself that it’s allowed. No law says I have to write every day.

So, pardon me for all the rambling. But for my regular readers, please understand that I am on the mend, and I badly want to be writing almost every day. I just need to let my head get a little less chaotic. So, for now, I’ll probably be posting every 2-4 days, though I’d rather the gaps were smaller.

And just to make you feel better about me being my normal bookish self, I just finished reading the Tomorrow Series, by John Marsden, I’ve started the Circle of Magic series, by Tamora Pierce. Along with that, I still have a couple of books that I bought at the book store to work through, along with a copy of A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, and Here, There Be Dragons, by James A. Owen, on my Kindle. I’ve read both of those before, but I have little recollection of what the former was about, despite it being a Newbery Medal Award book, and I only read it a few years ago.  And I’m longing to start at the beginning of Owen’s Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, so I can follow the adventures of Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams from the beginning, once more.

consider what she lost…

This one’s been chasing me for a while. Sometimes, you badly want to write something, but you’re equally afraid that you won’t be able to express yourself. If I let myself get away with it, I’ll never write it. Not that it’s all that important, except to me. Which is all that matters, really, since it’s my blog. That doesn’t make starting any easier, though.

I went to see The Help, several days after I finished reading the book. If you’re looking for me to cover the controversial or historical aspects of it, you’re reading the wrong blog. These have been covered in numerous book and movie reviews, and I can’t better them. And bookworm or not, I’m not really a book reviewer, in the general sense. My reviews are usually of books that I absolutely adore, and what I remember is what I love about them. I don’t pick apart plot, protagonists, and antagonists. My memory is pretty lacking, when it comes to something that didn’t capture my attention, admiration, and imagination.

To put that in perspective, don’t expect me to give you the gist (or even the theme) of a sermon I just heard preached. If one keynote caught my attention, and held it, I’ll tell you that. Otherwise, I’ll just tell you it was good. Likewise, I can enjoy a book or movie, and not be interested enough or remember enough about specific details to give you the entire plot. But if I’ve been re-reading it since I was a child, because I absolutely love it, then I’ll give you chapter and verse about it. And do what you will, you may not be able to shut me up.

Explanations aside, that isn’t what I started out to write. Spoilers ahead, for book and movie, so if you don’t want to know what happens, then stop reading, right now.

I don’t remember which movie review I read, some time back, but there was a mention that they thought Skeeter’s romance with Stuart Whitworth felt a little out of place, not really helping the story along at all. I agree that they skimped a little, on the movie version, because they didn’t have the time for it, but I don’t agree that it was unnecessary to the story.

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a young woman that was raised to believe that she will never be good enough or beautiful enough for her mother. Thankfully, her closest friends love her despite these “shortcomings”. So, when she returns from college, she’s welcomed back into her circle of friends, with all their everlasting bridge clubs, and matchmaking plans for her.

But she’s living in the segregated Deep South, where white children are raised and loved by black maids (and the kids love them in return), but when the children grow up, they adopt the prejudices of their parents . Skeeter wants to be a writer, and in her journey towards seeing through the prejudice surrounding her, she takes steps that her friends will not accompany her on.

And she meets Stuart. The first nightmare date, he’s drunk, obnoxious, and pretty much a complete jerk. So, she forgets her nerves and tells him what she really thinks of him. You’d think that would be the end of it, but he eventually comes to apologize, knowing that his behavior can’t be excused, but yes, he can apologize.

Because there’s more to Stuart than you think, as he was planning to marry the girl he’d been dating since his teens… when she cheated on him. Absolutely crushed by this betrayal, he wasn’t ready for that date, but he was badgered into it, by Skeeter’s friend Hilly. No, I’m not excusing his behavior, just explaining.

Now that they’ve had that nightmare date, Skeeter can’t go back to being nervous around him. She continues to tell him exactly what she thinks, and finds that he appreciates that. And he asks her to give him another chance. Which she finally agrees to.

In the end, the two of them move beyond their disaster date, and she finds someone who encourages her to write what she wants to write, not what others expect. He thinks she’s beautiful and original, though in the book, he eventually has to go west and get some closure with that other girl. He’s also the son of a Senator, so Skeeter gives him a look into life outside the world of being a politician’s son.

Meanwhile, Skeeter finishes her book, and gets it published. Her viewpoint on everyone in town has changed, as she knows how they treat their maids. Because of a few things before the book, she’s lost her position in the clubs, and she eventually loses Hilly’s friendship. Hilly’s belief in the need for separation between blacks and whites trumps everything, including lifelong friendships.

And then, Stuart proposes to Skeeter. He loves her originality, finds that he’s never met a girl quite like her, and he thinks she’s beautiful. For the first time, Skeeter finds that a young man loves her, while she’s been raised to believe that this will probably never happen. For any girl, it is a thrill to find yourself loved. Skeeter would be no exception to this.

But there needs to be honesty on both sides, so Skeeter finally tells Stuart about the book. Right after he proposes. He is shocked and crushed… because he loves her, but that love isn’t enough to overcome his prejudices. He does not believe in what she did, thinks that things should remain as they are. And so, he leaves her.

Sure, the scene where she tells him (in the movie) and he yells at her, it’s a bit abrupt, but I still think it’s necessary. She was on a journey to see beyond the skin color of those around her. But on the way, she fell in love, and found that for some people, love isn’t enough. You have to have beliefs and interests in common. Not just interests in playing tennis or golf.

And in the end, she had to face what her choices had caused. She had lost friendships, lost her first love, and lost the comfort of living at home, being blind to the hypocrisy around her. But with these things were added to her experience in life, she could now wipe the slate clean, and go to New York City, knowing that there was nothing left for her in Mississippi.

After reading the book and seeing the movie, I’m afraid I empathize with the romance, and then feel for her, as her first love turns his back on her. He wanted to marry her. She was in love, too, but then he abandoned her because of prejudice… it could have completely crushed her. But she came out of it stronger than ever. And her own beliefs were strong enough that she wouldn’t give them up, even to get his love back. So, I tend to consider what she lost and what she gained from this whole endeavor. If only we all could have such principles, and stick to them, no matter what others say or do.

everyone needs an outlet…

Do you realize that I’ve been in Australia for FIVE months? Yes, I woke up this morning, and it was October. Now, it doesn’t look or act like the October that I’m used to, so only the calendar and my computer are able to convince me of this. That means it’s three months til Christmas, and then I’m on the home stretch.

Not to make you think that I’m counting down until I can leave Oz. More like I’m keeping track, so I know how much time I have left to go visit places like Sydney, Alice Springs, Adelaide, the Great Barrier Reef, and New Zealand. That kind of counting. And yes, I already realize that I won’t be able to visit every place on that list, but I fully intend to be back for a visit, every year or three, after I go home! I can fit them all in, then.

I’m trying to think back at what all’s happened since I got here, what’s changed, what things I do or don’t notice anymore about being here. You know, what’s become old hat. Of course, it’s a trifle difficult to figure out things that you don’t notice. How do you take notice of what you don’t notice?For example, wall outlets and light switches. When I first got here, it took me a little while realize what WAS a light switch, because they don’t look like ours. American light switches are actual SWITCHES, that stick out from the wall enough to see them. And the switch direction is off. Up is on, down is off, at home. But not here. Of course, the part of the button that sticks out, doesn’t really count as a switch, so I guess it’s… if the top is pressed in (the up side), it’s on, if the bottom is pressed in, it’s off. Did I lose you yet? Yeah, me, too.

Now, the wall outlets and the plugs that go into them… well, they look like someone was trying to make plugs like we have in the U.S., but they were drinking a bit, when they put the metal parts in there. So, they’re crooked. But having the on/off switches for outlets is pretty handy, so I can leave the iron plugged in all the time, but have the wall outlet turned off.

It took me months of repeating a litany, every time I locked the car (“Left is not lock, left is not lock”), before I finally had my epiphany (apostrophe, for you Hook fans) over remembering how to lock or unlock the car. At home, you turn the key left to lock it. Here, you turn it right. Confusing? Yes. Three or four months in, I realized that I was looking at this wrong. The key (no pun intended) is that you turn the key to the FRONT of the car, to lock it. Whether the driver’s side is on the right or the left, it doesn’t matter. Turn the key to the front. My “left is not lock” litany went out the window, and I haven’t needed it since.

I’ve stopped hearing some of the Aussie accents. Oh, not all of them, but if I know a person fairly well, I’ve stopped hearing it, unless I purposefully think about it. Most complete strangers, I still hear it, but then, the Australian accent has become so normal to me, that I’ll leave a store before I realize that I didn’t hear the cashier’s accent at all. Then, you sit there wondering if they had one or not.

So, when I was watching the U.S. version of Dancing with the Stars, the other night, I realized that until the two Aussie professionals identified themselves as Aussies, I hadn’t realized where they were from. So, I either didn’t hear the accent at all, or maybe their accents are a little more “mainstream”, from living abroad. Makes me wonder if, when I get home and adjust to American accents again, will I be able to pick out an Aussie accent, then? I think I will, because amongst Americans, speaking pure (and wonderful) American-speak, the Aussies, Brits, and Europeans will stand out.

What else has changed since I got here? Besides the fact that my feet are always dirty, I mean. Yes, that’s what happens with the red dirt outside, running around barefoot, and tracking it inside. It makes me think of Biblical times, and how when they were visiting people, it was polite to offer water to wash your feet. But then, if someone did that here, I have visions of all the muddy water we’d be leaving at the door.

Then again, we don’t always run around barefoot. I try and remember to keep my flip-flops nearby, so I can put them on to go in the yard (stepping in chook poo is DISGUSTING), but I don’t always remember, and I’m often too lazy to run upstairs and get them. Oh, and I have learned to call them “thongs”, when I’m speaking to the kids. I know, you’re shocked. But if I can listen to the kids refer to mommy cats having tits, without blinking, then surely I can refer to flip-flops as thongs.

First day with her eyes open, she's too curious to hold still. Hence, the blurriness.

I assure you, the first time I heard Sadie refer to how cats feed their babies, I tried to get her to use a different word. I find that word to just sound COARSE, and it’s a little awkward, coming from a three year old. But after I tried to get her to stop saying it, she appeared to not hear me, wandered away, and suddenly said “My mommy is sooooo beautiful… and she says tits.”  That really made me laugh, and I shared that story with her mom. And so, I’ve grown accustomed.

I still take notice of whether there are frogs in the shower or toilets, but for the most part, I don’t have a problem doing “frog duty”. I discovered that if there’s one in the toilet, and you flush it, he’ll likely jump (rather than be flushed). So, reach for him with a washcloth in hand, he’ll probably jump all the way out. This might cause me to shriek, if he gets too close, but as long as he’s not in the toilet bowl, I don’t care. This is not a matter of being brave. I’m not. It’s just a matter of dealing with the problem, if I can. If someone else is available to help, or worse, if it were a snake, I would definitely be calling for help. I don’t deal with snakes. And no, I have never yet seen one in the house, or even in the yard, in case you’re worried.

There are probably other things that have changed in my outlook, since arriving here in Oz, but at the moment, they aren’t occurring to me. Oh, yes, I have discovered that life will be dull without potato wedges, sweet chili sauce, and sour cream, once I’ve returned to the U.S.  But these things can be survived (proof positive… I’m living for a year without Zaxby’s). When I think of some more, I’ll share.

But now, I’m going back to re-reading Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice. I had my one venture outside for the day, to the grocery store and coffee shop, so now I can settle down and enjoy my book. Perhaps next week, I’ll think of somewhere new and different to go on Saturday. Hope you enjoy some of the kiddo pictures. Bubby, like me, rarely wears shoes, either inside or outside.

lullaby the baby to old broadway…

There’s nothing like having a baby snuggling into your shoulder, dropping off to sleep, as you sing to her. She likes to sing, too, but wordlessly. So, I give her words to go to sleep by. I don’t know any traditional lullabies, unless “Baby Mine”, from Dumbo, counts, but I’m never able to remember all the words to the song. It has that nice, slow rhythm, but so do many other songs that never qualify as sing-me-to-sleep songs.

The singing almost always starts with “Will I Ever Tell You?”, from The Music Man, though I occasionally start it off with “Lida Rose”, which always comes first in the musical. But something about the key and rhythm to the lyrics “Dream of now, dream of then, dream of a love song that might have been…” are perfect for lullabying a baby, even if she doesn’t appreciate the romance of the song. From there, I usually progress either to “‘Til There Was You” (“There were bells on the hills, but I never heard them ringing, no I never heard them at all, ’til there was you…”), also from The Music Man, or “Maybe”, from Annie.

When people think of Annie, they always think of the song “Tomorrow”, but my favorite has always been “Maybe”. The girl who played Annie in the original movie, Aileen Quinn, apparently preferred it, as well. I never have been able to understand all the hoopla about “Tomorrow”. I was raised on the 1982 movie of Annie, so if you’re wishy-washing over whether to see that one or the newer one, always err on the side of the older one. I was tortured through the newer version (starring Victor Garber as Daddy Warbucks) once, and don’t think I could ever survive it again. Speaking of torture, my family once gathered around the tv to see what the newer version of The Music Man would be like, though we were fully expecting it to be horrid. We were right. What can you expect when the original version stars the incomparable Robert Preston as the ONLY worthwhile Music Man, ever? The newer one starred Matthew Broderick (who can’t sing, has no rhythm, and no charm or charisma), and Kristin Chenoweth (who can sing, but just isn’t right for the classy Marian). Avoid at all costs.

On the lullaby round, the next song is often “On the Front Porch With You”, which is sung by Burl Ives in the movie Summer Magic. It took me years (literally) to figure out what that song was from, because in the days before the Internet and before CDs and mp3s, we listened to it on an audio tape, along with a bunch of other Disney songs. At that age (teens or younger), I had no idea that Hayley Mills starred in anything besides Pollyanna, but she was the star of Summer Magic. And no, I still don’t now what it’s about, nor have I ever seen the movie. I just know that if Burl Ives sings it, it will probably be awesome. Most people will have heard his performance of the Christmas song “Silver Bells”, in the classic stop motion animation TV classic (he’s the snowman, of course).

I rotate in “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”, which I originally heard on Ultimate Broadway, a Best-of collection of musicals, or sometimes lean towards “Out of My Dreams”, from Oklahoma!. My grandpa loved musicals, so I was raised on anything Gordon MacRae, so Carousel and Oklahoma! were definitely on this list. No matter what some people say (Buddy, no hating), Oklahoma! is a fabulous show, and there are excellent points to both the original movie and the newer “stage” version that you can find on DVD, starring Hugh Jackman.  [Note to purists: Obviously, not every song mentioned is a “Broadway melody”

On the one hand, MacRae had one of the most glorious voices that has ever existed, and he was well-matched by Shirley Jones (who was also Marian the librarian in the movie version of The Music Man). Being filmed back in the old days, some of the risque elements were edited from the movie, so there are one or two songs missing… which I don’t miss in the slightest, never having learned to love them. On the other hand, MacRae and Jones weren’t dancers, so the dream sequence trades them for two other people… where the girl DOES look like Jones, but the guy dance does NOT look like MacRae. I’ve always thought his dance double looked more like a slimmer Arnold Schwarzenegger… so it takes you right out of THAT dream.

In the newer version, Hugh Jackman (yes, if you didn’t know it already, Jackman is a musical star, as well as an action star) and all the lead cast can sing AND dance, so every girl watching will swoon when Curly appears during the dream sequence. But with the two extra songs back, and some of the original crudities back, it’s slightly darker in spots. Jud comes across as extremely creepy, both because of the actor (who does a great job, by the way) and because of that extra song. I usually skip it, because listening to him sing obsessively about his love for Laurie is just… terrifying. But some of the group dance numbers are absolutely fantastic, so I tend to recommend both the old and the new, in this case.

When the baby really isn’t going to sleep for me, I have to branch out into some other songs, trying to remember (yes, the song “Try to Remember, as sung by Jerry Orbach, works for this, too) others that have the same slower tempo. Qualifiers for that description include songs from Kismet, The Desert Song, Cinderella (the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical), West Side Story, and several others.

“And This is My Beloved” and “Stranger in Paradise”, from Kismet, are family favorites. I’ve never actually seen the movie (starring Howard Keel) or seen a stage production, but I’ve heard the soundtracks from both movie and original musical. I have a suspicion that my grandpa sang these songs a lot, when I was younger, so I don’t recall hearing them as much as others, but they sounded so very familiar, when I ran across them in later years. And, of course, I have some Gordon MacRae collections, where he sings both of them, and I listen to those a lot.

“The Desert Song” and “One Alone” are from an operetta, technically, but it was made into a movie musical, starring Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson. An older film, the acting isn’t always great, but the music can’t be ruined. And the American reporter is a comedic role that everyone should see. He always makes me laugh. And watching Grayson as a flirt was pretty interesting, as I’m used to seeing her as the shy but blossoming daughter Magnolia in Show Boat, and starring opposite Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh. That girl could hit some NOTES.

I love to sing “Somewhere”, from West Side Story, as well as “Tonight”, but I regularly forget the lyrics, and always mean to go look them up again. So, I’ll skip off into a rendition of “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” or “Ten Minutes Ago”, which are the best of the musical version of Cinderella. I still remember the first time I ever saw this movie, starring Lesley Ann Warren, in a made-for-TV musical, but it was still Rodgers & Hammerstein, which means it can’t be all that bad. We were in Michigan, visiting my cousins, and even if the sets in the movie were more like those of a play on the stage, I was mesmerized by the fun of some songs, and the beauty of the others. And since I loved watching Warren in The Happiest Millionaire, I had no trouble loving to watch her in another musical.

“I’ll Never Say No”, from The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a great song for sleepy purposes, but don’t ever sing it to someone who might hold you to the words of the song. Telling someone you’ll never say no to them, no matter what they say or do… they might just take advantage of that.   : )   Debbie Reynolds almost won an Oscar for her role in this movie musical, but I think she lost to Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins. This was also at the time when Harve Presnell, who played Johnny Brown, could’ve become a big box office star, but things fell through for him. Instead, people that love the TV show The Pretender will have seen him as Mr. Parker, the old great mustached gentleman, father to Ms. Parker. Some of the extras on the DVDs have the actors saying that Presnell was always entertaining people off set with his singing. How awesome would that be?

There are so many others, and plenty of newer musicals to make use of. I really need to run through my collection, so I don’t miss out on singing any of them to the baby. Maybe when she’s older, she’ll hear one, and have a vague recollection that she’s heard it somewhere, too. And maybe she’ll fall in love with songs and musicals, someday, too. One can only hope.

~

[see Lullaby the Baby… a Reprise]

seabrook, where are you?

It has been 11 years since I last missed a conference at Seabrook Island, and here I am, on the other side of the world, again. At least I can say that I have an excellent excuse. But with it technically being autumn, here in Australia, I’ve had to keep close track of the time, so that the Seabrook Conference doesn’t slide by, unnoticed. Sacrilege, you say? Well, maybe so. But here I am, missing my second (and in November, my third) conference at Seabrook, since I started going there in 1998.

Oh, yes, you heard me right. I’ve been going to Seabrook Island, twice a year, since I was eighteen years old. That was when I was a teenager. That was when my baby brother was only 7 years old (he’s 20, and in the Air Force, now).  That was when I was unable to drive a stick-shift, and I hadn’t started spending most of my life driving up Interstate 81 and 77 to Greenwood Hills. In fact, I had never even been to Greenwood Hills (I spent five years there, in PA). That was in a pre-9/11 world, when I could still take my pocket knife on an airplane. The guys at the metal detectors would open it, hold it against the palm of their hand, and make sure it wasn’t too long (the blade was at least the length of MY palm). Only once did they make me check it in my luggage, and they wouldn’t dream of taking it away from me.

Seabrook, what will you do without me? It’s May there, so it should be really warm, if not hot, and people will probably spend their Saturday and Sunday afternoons swimming in the ocean. I’ll be going to the beach here, in a month, but it’ll be winter, and cold.

As I write this, it’s 4:30pm on Thursday in South Carolina. By the end of my workday today, it’ll be that time in the morning (over there) when I usually got up, year after year, to drive 10-11 hours, from PA to SC, in order to be at Gilligan’s on time for dinner. Instead, two of my girls are making the trip without me.

On Saturday, people are going to go wandering on the beach, short walks between meetings, and long ones during free time. They’ll get fed right royally by the cooks, as they actually have chefs here. And they’ll get to here the Word from the speaker, probably about seven times over the entire weekend. Then, will they play volleyball or Frisbee (can you actually play Frisbee at Seabrook without me?) or will there be an attendee that subverts them into playing football?

The stars in this hemisphere are in different positions then in the Northern Hemisphere. So, my friends will be seeing the “home stars”, walking the beach at night, and getting dizzy from looking for shooting stars. After an awesome campfire, I hope, and who’ll play guitar for it, this year? Oh, yes, Mike can handle it.

Who’s going to tell me where they went in Charleston on Monday, and what they did, and who did it? What will they do, anyway? Last year, they went to the tea plantation. We’ve been to the aquarium, walked the New Bridge, been to the Market oh so many times… somebody’s going to have to think of something new.   : )

Seabrook, and all my friends, I miss you. Have a blast.

gone shopping…

This evening, we had pizza for dinner. I don’t know where they ordered it from, but it was really good. I dug into both the Hawaiian pizza and the meat lover’s, but the meat lover’s actually included barbecue sauce! Which was interesting enough, but considering I don’t generally like barbecue sauce… how many slices did I eat? I don’t remember, and I wouldn’t tell you if I did.

I was about to go out, but they started a movie for the kids, called Little Miss Magic, and the first name to appear on the screen was Russ Tamblyn. Then, while we debated how old the movie was (the acting was pretty awful), I debated over how old Russ Tamblyn would be in this, and he had to show up soon, as his name appeared first. He would be the most noteworthy name in the movie, of course.

Now, for you non-musical buffs out there, Russ Tamblyn played Riff, the leader of the Jets, in West Side Story and Gideon, the youngest Pontipee brother, in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Since those movies were filmed in the 50’s and 60’s, and the movie we were watching was made in the 90’s, I figured he had to be at least 60 in this movie. The first wizard-ish person to show up didn’t really look like him, and how much could he have changed?

Not all that much, apparently. He showed up with curly hair gone grey and smoking a pipe, with a voice that sounded just like it did in Seven Brides. Crazy. Nowadays, he’s known for being the father of Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). But to some, he’ll always be a Jet. To me, he’ll always be youngest redheaded Pontipee brother.

I wanted to take a trip to Woolworth’s, the local grocery store, perhaps to buy a few things, but definitely to get out and see what things looked like in an Australian grocery store. And of course, no hurry, with no kids in tow. How could grocery shopping be so exciting? I don’t know, but I had a great time. I had no trouble finding it, and my driving skills are holding steady.

It didn’t take me long to go down the candy aisle, where I discovered some Cadbury Dairy Bubbly bars. They were supposed to be full of light and luscious bubbles, and to have an aerated center. Well, this certainly needed exploring. Though I discovered later that it wasn’t actually fizzy (how can it be bubbly, but not fizzy?). One of the girls suggested I was probably supposed to let it melt in my mouth, and then I’d feel the bubbles. Chocolate with rules, really? I tried it, but no luck. If it hadn’t been so delicious, I’d want my money back. I thought I was going to taste a fizzy chocolate bar. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from the disappointment.

I continued down the aisles, on the lookout for anything new and interesting. And everything was, because the brands were different, the names were different, the varieties were different. Things we’d have in the health food aisle back home might be normal. Free range chicken eggs that hadn’t ever been refrigerated were in a regular aisle, with no refrigeration. You can get strawberry and chocolate milk, but I’m pretty sure you can get banana milk, as well.

The coffee and tea aisle was there, but in a different arrangement than in the U.S. There was a ton of instant coffee, and then the bags of coffee beans were almost an afterthought, and I don’t know if any of it was ground. No fancy flavors. Though there were a few instant cappuccino mixes, as well. And then there was plenty of tea, but again, no fancy flavors. Perhaps some chai, but mostly your English Breakfast and Earl Grey teas, and a few other flavors of that sort. They like their tea, and sometimes coffee, Down Under, but not with all the extra dessert-style flavors, like some Americans (including myself) like.

I came home and had some of the tea that Mrs. B received for Mother’s Day. It was a box with a variety of flavors (didn’t see anything like it at Woolworth’s), including Earl Grey, English Breakfast, a few green teas, a chai, and “liquorice legs”. Yes, that’s what  it’s called. I had also noticed that any licorice candy at the store, it is also spelled “liquorice”. Made me wonder whether licorice actually had liquor in it, originally, or even liqueur, perhaps. I didn’t find anything on that, when I looked online, just that the licorice plant is apparently a legume. Does that make it related to a potato? [I stand corrected, it’d be related to a green bean or peanut.]

Anyway, the “liquorice” tea was listed as having peppermint flavor added to it (what were they thinking?), so obviously, I won’t be touching it. I had chai, and each container actually held tea leaves, so I put my tea into a silver tea infuser, dropped it in a mug, and then waited for the kettle to boil. Culture and refinement, here I come.

frogs in the toilet…

Whenever I think the phrase “frogs in the toilet”, I get the tune to “Cat’s in the Cradle” stuck in my head. Fortunately, I only know a few of the words, so I never get very far with my singalong. “Frogs in the shower” also works to the same. When I prepared to go Down Under, I thought about all the interesting animals that I’m going to see. The wonderful idea of eventually seeing kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, and other Aussie animals that do not begin with ‘K’.

I was warned, of course, that the house I would be living in is made of timber, and not completely sealed against the outdoors. Yes, I knew, and I assured them that I’m not a screamer. Well, it’s true, but I can squeak and yelp with the loudest. Since it’s fall, I don’t remember whether the frogs and geckos are coming, going, or staying, but they’re here. Now, they don’t bother me, but there are certain times of the day when you really want to be all alone, with no worries about leaping critters. These occasions usually involve the bathroom.

One of the toilets is of a design that frogs can get inside the bowl, up where you can’t see them. Actually, they’re not in a position to jump out, they’d have to fall back into the water, first. But the first time I flushed the toilet and I saw some long green legs come out for a second, as the resident frog attempted to stay in his hiding place… I’m afraid I squeaked. Seriously, it was the middle of the night, and if I’d screamed, they’d have heard me, so you can believe me when I say that. No stretching of the truth.

Since then, occasionally the frog will end up in the water at the bottom of the bowl, and just sits there looking up, as if contemplating when to make his move back into that wonderful hiding place of his. What is the attraction? I’ve no idea, but I certainly prefer the other bathroom, unless I’ve checked carefully that there are no green legs in sight. If the frog is in the bowl, then I request “frog removal” from our family’s dad. He’s always happy to oblige, and is accustomed to these requests from his daughters, as well.

Now, the shower is one of those glassed in ones, with a door, and several nice corners to lodge in. These frogs are in plain sight, but once in position, they don’t move. They just want to bask in the steam and spray, apparently. Last night, one was hopping around the bottom, unable to get his footing on the tile wall. I requested frog removal, but by the time we returned, said frog had finally gotten a grip, and climbed up into another corner. He hung onto a position that looked ready for leaping, however, and I was a little leery about him.

I’ve only seen the geckos a time or two, and they’re no problem, as they stay on the walls and don’t show up in awkward places. Mainly, they remind me of Indonesia, where I’d seen them before, over ten years ago (can you believe it?).

The laughter of the kookaburras is one of the first things I hear every morning. My first morning here, I thought the girls were laughing and shrieking, all at the same time. but I was only partially awake. I hope to be able to get some closer up photos of them, eventually. And I have seen some other lovely birds, too, though I have no idea what they were. A couple that I saw at the Rockhampton Airport, the other day, were partially dull green with white bodies (I think), but they had iridescent blue on each side of their faces. Other birds I’ve seen are patchy black and white… almost like a checkerboard, where the lines haven’t been defined properly. When I figure out what they are, I’ll let you know.

I know these animal adventures aren’t what you or I expected, but they are interesting and sometimes amusing. And as long as I don’t have any adventures with crocodiles or anything poisonous, while I’m here, I’ll be completely happy. No matter how many frogs I come across.