Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Beckie

Rebecca Carolyn Conrad was born on this day in 1969. She had a childhood like all children have; their stories are personal in how they remember the tale. It is not my tale to tell. She grew up, worked and gathered the skills, knowledge, opinions, feelings that became the incredible woman I met in 1995.

She changed my life that year.

Beckie has a beautiful, discerning, analytic, no-nonsense mind. She is an excellent teacher, a stalwart ally, an incomparable creative, and a gifted mother. Beckie was able to accept the original medicine she was born with, and add other gifts she gathered along life's path. Like her own video game, she landed on the caches of special powers that would be valuable and useful as she journeyed through this life.

Beckie inspires the people she meets to do the best they can. We've all met people who have this special gift, and they make finding a good path and the work in doing the right thing much easier.

For two years, when I was struggling mightily with cancer, she held my consciousness. It was not weighty or burdensome for her, and she quietly went about her own life with love, while ensuring that mine was as peaceful as could possibly be. She is a powerful and awesome spirit and I admire her strength of character and will. She is an evolved human being. I hope we will see more people like her come into the world, and take their place among the healers and peacemakers of the future. We need heroes like Beckie, with her unconditional love and clear-eyed vision.

On your day, beloved Beckie, I light a white candle to honor you, and wish you joy, comfort, peace and the company of a glorious host of more human beings just like you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Laughter and Friendship

Today started on the dicey side. My driver door won't open: I've got various aches and pings from clambering over and around the seats yesterday to get behind the steering wheel. The injury to the door has been diagnosed as hooked by a snowplow blade.

Money didn't arrive as expected. It will, but not today. Came home from the empty post office box, to find the Intrepid Space Invaders (including the dog) in my living space.

Got an email from a lovely friend, who is working on a screenplay (fantastic!) but hearing critics' voices in her head (argh!) and I wanted to offer substantive support.

I went to the web, looking for the poem about soaring, "to break the surly bonds of earth" and found a Boeing 737 technical link that got me laughing so hard, I need to share.

Isn't it amazing how the universe conspires to shower us with laughter just when we need it most?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Barb Barton's New Turtle Dove CD

Sunday night at 7 pm, in a wintry East Lansing full of students returning to MSU from their holiday break, the Unitarian Universalist Church was rocking, rolling, folking and clapping.

Barb Barton, musician friends and their instruments stormed the night with 2 sets of the fabulous tracks from Barb's new release, Turtle Dove.

This is a breakout CD. National (nay, international) attention needs to be paid to the rich, vibrant, earthy, full collection of Barton's new material. This CD - the fifth for Barton - is personal, open, tender, fierce and thunderfying. There wasn't a sound in the hall during Thanksgiving in Texas, and not a single eye stayed completely dry during Indiana Hills, a song that Barb wrote to honor her Grandmother Barton.

Like a good movie, a fantastic read, a gripping life event, Barb arranged the tunes on the Turtle Dove CD to give us listeners a rollercoaster ride of emotional highs, grief, relief and fun.

Michiganderians know to wear layers in January, and by the second set, we had the top two on the back of our chairs, standing, clapping, singing the repeat chorus. By the end of the concert, singing along to Listen to the Music, the celebrants were on their feet, dancing, laughing and rejoicing in the night and the music and the gifts of this songwriter/musician.

Driving home, we made an attempt to close the debate on which song is our favorite. Couldn't do it. We'd decide, then say, "Wait, play this one again. Which track is One Less Star? Play that. NO! I'm listening to Predator and Prey."

Barb wrote (except for three well-chosen covers), arranged, produced, mixed and engineered Turtle Dove. This level of accomplishment is going to come in handy in the near future. She's going to be gettin' busy on the road with the new Turtle Dove CD.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Admirable Women Part II

Saima Sieva Elviena Aaltonen was born October 6, 1902 in Kaasmarkku, Finland to Viktori and Mariah. She had two big brothers, Aarno and Toivo, and eventually a little sister, Suoma Sigrid. Viktori emigrated to Canada, seeking work, and the family came along later in 1910. Grandma said she tasted a banana for the first time on the ship, and hated bananas thereafter. "Like oysters," she grimaced. Viktori died young from the effects of silver mining, and the brothers worked in mining-related industries, and moved away following the work. The women worked: Mariah (Tillie) as a cook in a mining camp, and the young girls as nannies. Work brought them to Sault St. Marie in America, and soon thereafter to homestead on Drummond Island.

Saima married Fred Nisula of Baraga, MI and settled into their cabin in the U.P. They had two children, Irene Elviena, and William. It wasn't a happy marriage. When Irene and Bill were married, Saima divorced Fred, moved to Detroit, and put herself through nursing school, and worked as a pediatric nurse through the 50s.

I remember her then, staying with us for extended periods of time, as my siblings were born. She was a strong woman, hearty, stern, but quick to laugh. Four of us were giggling past bedtime one night. Grandma had been in already three times to shush us, and the fourth time she was mad. "Quiet now, or I'll give you a fat lip and a cauliflower ear." We all fell out of bed laughing. Once we started, she started and we all rolled around giggling.

When her hands were too bad for infant care, she changed to hospice nursing, as live-in nurse for end of life patients. We live now not far from the historic Gage farm, where Grandma Si tended old Mrs. Gage to her passing. When Grandma Tillie was getting older, Si moved to Drummond Island permanently.

My grandmother was a pragmatic realist. When a young relative with negligible resources was to be married, my grandmother offered this choice: either she would pay for a fancy wedding, or she would pay to get the girl some teeth. As sensible as Grandma, our cousin opted for the teeth.

We wrote letters; from the time I could put words on paper, I wrote to Grandma, and she always wrote back immediately. She admired whatever I was doing that I was proud of, and discouraged me from foolish attachments.

When I was getting married in a spitfire of familial disapproval, and my mother refused to come to my wedding, Grandma said she'd be there, and she was. And my grandmother said her daughter should show up, too. She did.

Grandma loved her grandchildren unconditionally, fiercely and her entire life. We lost her 15 August, 1987 and I miss her still. Quiet, stoic, beautiful, strong, the tall woman with the sky blue eyes is keeping us all well-loved even now.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Admirable Women Part I

Blog rebirth requires a ceremony of intention and I intend to celebrate admirable women on this blog; from history, from next door, from family, and imagination. Women who have lived exemplary lives, inspired us, and hugged us silly, either because we know them, love them, or because we are moved by what they accomplished.

Shirley was my best friend Beckie's grandmother. She was a woman who lived by her own rules that began with "right thinking" which, to me, meant both high moral ground and common sense combined. She bought houses and made them homes for people she found who needed help and a roof over their heads. One of these women is now a chef, as is her daughter. Another is her adopted son. She always spoke her mind, wore what she wanted, scoffed at bravado and hooted at praise given her. What she did, she thought everyone should do.

And she loved the quiet Red, her husband, with open, fierce and beautiful passion.

She wore golf shoes in the winter ("I'm not breaking a hip!" she stated emphatically) and vibrant red lipstick and a demure headband. The drawing of her here is when she was in her 80s. I scanned the watercolor for this post, and I love that the water formed rays around her wonderful self. Just so does her brilliant energy live on.

She set an example for me that I will follow my whole life, and her lineage and soul were passed along to another woman I admire: her granddaughter Beckie.

Samurai Women, Kabuki Women

firedoglake has an article about the current exhibit (through Jan. 10) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY called "The Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor 1156-1868." Pictured with the Toby Wollin piece is a suit of armor used by a woman. Yes, women were samurai too.

It reminded me about figures I have made honoring women roles not celebrated or known. Here is a Kabuki dancer. Kabuki dance-drama theater was created by women, danced by women, and until the Edo Period all parts were played by women. After the Edo Period, women were banned from performing Kabuki.

The armor in the museum was worn by a woman in the 1700s. Kabuki performed by women was banned in 1629. A good woman with her own weaponry in your home was a better idea than a woman in theatrical make-up. Interesting, isn't it?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Evinrude is Rude

As I was being taught how to find the sports channels today, we landed on a fishing channel, at the beginning of a commercial for Evinrude E-Tec. Evinrude, an outboard motor manufacturer, doesn't bother to tell us - or show us - its new motor. We see a man and a woman standing fishing in a boat. This is good. Women and men fish. Women and men have boats. Women influence major purchase decisions in this category in big, big numbers. So far, so good.

The woman talks, the man shakes his head for 20 seconds. The tagline for the commercial is this:

"A woman will say 21 million words before an E-Tec needs maintenance. A man will say 7 million words."

Not good.

Rule One in advertising: show the product. Rule Two: Try not to tick off any potential buyer

Evinrude needs to do better. I give this commercial "The Boot."