Janet's Jargon

Fun lifestyles, charitable acts, great fiction, author support, Patrick and Grace Mysteries, Keith clan trilogy,

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Musical weekend (Part 1)

I knew it was going to be a busy weekend, starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday when Kevin (my son) and I headed for the farmers' market in Menominee Michigan. I was armed with books, and Kevin with fresh luscious greens from his garden. It would be our second week there, so we knew more what to expect. Well, except that this Saturday was not only a work one, but there was some fun planned as well.
At the first Saturday we were there, a group of performers from the upcoming musical, Chicago, dropped in to offer a teaser for the show. They were delightful, and while Kevin and I had already planned to try to take in the show, we knew, after hearing them, that we didn't want to miss it. It was to be a two-weekend event at the Theatre on the Bay at the University of Wisconsin/Marinette, in the city across the lake, just over the bridge from Menominee. (See their visit on YouTube here. If you look real quickly you can see Kevin and me. We are right at the beginning of the video, the second booth over, by the light grey car.)

A short time before the performance, one of the singers had stopped by my table and we had a delightful conversation about books, writing, music, etc. He didn't identify himself as one of the performers, so it was with great glee that I saw that the nice looking young man I had been chatting with was indeed one of the main singers from the show. So this Saturday, we had our tickets in hand and we were really looking forward to it.

The farmers' market was quite successful, saleswise, so we made our way to Applebee's for a nice relaxing lunch after it closed. One of the most frequent questions I am asked about my writing is, "Where do you get your ideas?" My answer is always, "From life. I love to people-watch." One little incident can add that certain spark you need to make your book come alive. This was true at the restaurant. Sitting in the booth beside us were two young women and a mother of one of them, who was obviously about to get married. As they discussed the upcoming wedding, the bride-to-be laughed and said, "If the weather is bad, I'll just sit under the canopy and give everyone my royal wave." With that, she waved her hand in the air, looking every bit as delightful as the newlywed Kate. In a flash, their waitress came running. "What did you want?" They all looked puzzled. "I saw you wave for me," the waitress said, which sent all of them--and us--into fits of laughter. Yes, that will one day be in one of my books.

After we finished our lunch, Kevin suggested that we head to the Marina to just sit and relax for a bit. It was a beautiful day, with a light breeze, about 80 degrees, and there was a 100-mile race (of sailboats) underway. We headed to the boardwalk and sat on one of the benches lake-side. (It is on Lake Michigan.) The boats were beautiful as they passed by. There were many other boats docked at the pier. People were friendly, which to me is always a bonus. And then an old gentleman, who looked to be homeless, sat down on the dock, opened the loaf of bread he had with him and began breaking it up into little pieces and feed the ducks. I began talking to him and found him to be a delightful source of information. He had a Rubber Maid plastic wheelbarrow with him, which he used to collect cans. Another incident followed, with an elderly man in a yellow raincoat who appeared to be looking for his boat, much like I have done upon occasion when I couldn't remember where I had parked the car at a shopping mall, and watching him was like viewing an old Colombo show. But that's another story--one which will find its way before too long into a new Patrick and Grace Mystery. I even have the title: St. Peter on the Bay. Yup, I have it almost completely written in my head already. And it came from one day's observation of life in general and people specifically while we waited for the time to leave to see Chicago.

We headed for the Theatre on the Bay. It was the first time I had seen an off-Broadway musical. I have seen many of them as movies, but the thrill of being there and experiencing it in person was beyond belief. It was such fun to see the young man I had met as he played the lawyer, and to feel like I "knew him," even though ever-so-slightly. The performers were all top-notch, and if or when I get a chance to do it again, I won't hesitate for a second to get those tickets and make my way the 50 miles to Marinette. The sad thing is that I think the next one doesn't take place until November! Catch an interview with some of the characters, including my "new friend" Billy Flynn (aka Paul Okray) on YouTube. I did get a chance to talk to him after the program for a few seconds--and he even remembered me! I just love it when fate hands me a chance to rub elbows with "famous" people!
Our trip home was uneventful, other than passing a dead skunk on the side of the road. Even that couldn't dampen our spirits. It's a wonderful life! Now see the next post (below) for the rest of the story.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

A musical weekend (Part 2)

This particular Sunday morning was full of expectations. I am usually the pianist at our little church in the woods in Northeast Wisconsin. Today would be an exception, for the most part. Our church has been actively involved with Don Shire, a trumpeter extraordinaire, for about three years. During that time I have gotten to know Don quite well. He was scheduled to be the minister today, in the absence of our regular minster, Dave Pompo, who with his wife Toni is in Brazil for a 6-week ministry trip.

Last year I got to play a number with Don. This year we were going to do another selection. We had e-mailed a couple of times on the plan. He suggested "He Lives!" in the key of concert B flat, with me doing a short intro, doing the first verse together, then me doing the second verse, then doing the third and final verse together, with me watching him carefully as he slows it down on the end of the chorus. It sounded pretty do-able. I practiced it some, and we were to meet a bit early so we could run through it once. It went pretty well.

I asked Don if he wanted to do the prelude and the offertory or if he wanted me to do it. He said he would prefer that I do it. I did the prelude I had practiced a bit, a familiar arrangement of "It Took a Miracle." When I finished it, the leader of the opening exercises came up and asked me if that was all I had. I said I guessed I could do another song, so I played "If You Want Joy, Real Joy, Wonderful Joy." I had only gotten past the first two or three notes when I heard Don's trumpet join in, from where he was sitting with the congregation. It was as if we had rehearsed it.

The first selection he played was our duet, and it went quite well--except for one minor detail. He had told me to watch him at the end, when he slowed down. He was up on the platform, and I was lower than he was, but the piano was still high enough that I could not see him at all. Still, we seemed to blend fairly well, and ended up at the same place at the same time.

Following the service, we had a fellowship dinner, so he got a chance to mingle with the regulars, then we headed for Crivitz, where it was our church's turn to spearhead the service at the nursing home. Don had graciously agreed to go along. We talked about the music and agreed that we would just "wing it" and play together. It would be a lot of the old familiar hymns from bygone days, which we both knew well. On most of them, as he told stories about different hymns from his life, he would leave it up to me to strike the key and play an introduction, then he would join in. Only once did I get in a key that was too high to sing as I played the second verse, so he asked me to lower it a bit, which I did. Then he told about his mother when she was very ill, shortly before her death, when she called him late at night and asked him to sing with her. He began to sing "Through it All." He acted a bit surprised when I began to play it; little did he know that is one of my favorite hymns.

During the program, he stopped and thanked me for my playing. He quoted Bill Pierce, a now deceased radio host I had listened to for over 50 years and a great trombonist, and whom I had e-mailed shortly before his homegoing. "Bill Pierce once told me that any musician is only as good as his accompanist. I have a wonderful pianist today. No matter what I play she can join right in, in any key." And he led them in a round of applause--for me! I was flattered, of course, but I was also humbled. I count it a great joy and privilege when God allows me to play with some of the great musicians I have been honored to accompany. Today was definitely one of those days. Don always says, when he receives applause, "Give it to Him." I feel the same way. I have been blessed to be able to entertain and (hopefully) inspire people through my music. If God gives us a talent of any kind, can we do less than use it for Him?

And this evening, after a very long but very good weekend, I turned on my very dear friend, Martha Reed Garvin, for her radio program, "Musical Memories." She was doing songs about holiness. It brought many memories for me, as she always does. I spoke to Martha on the phone this past week and we had a delightful time reminiscing about so many things, as we always do. It seems like we have known each other forever. I love it when "new friends" become almost immediate "old friends." Martha and my friendship is one of those.

When her program finished, I came to share these memories with all of you. But before I did, I popped a CD in my computer. It is Martha's son Brad's "Called Unto Holiness." Yes, you have heard me mention Brad here before too. He's that big tall handsome singer from the Metropolitan Opera who pops in at my radio program, "Marketing for Fun and Profit" and lets me join him in a couple of Christmas songs every year. Can it get any better than that?

Anyway, I hope there is a song in your heart tonight. Mine is full to overflowing.

Oh, and in case you want to get a taste of the fun, check out Don Shire, Martha Reed Garvin and Brad Garvin on You Tube. You can also see more about each of them on their websites: Don, Brad, and Martha. I know you won't be sorry you did.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fun at the Bay

We (Kevin--my son) and I went to the farmers' market in Menominee Michigan on Saturday, me armed with books to sell and him with fresh produce from his garden. Hot temperatures were predicted. We were at least semi-prepared. After getting badly sunburned on two separate farmers' markets in other spots in the area, I broke down and bought one of those canvas canopies. It was a good investment. (You can tell we live in Small Town USA when somebody says during a phone conversation, "I hear you bought a canopy" and you ask them where they heard it, and they reply, "At the hardware store"!) Actually, with the wind blowing in off Lake Michigan, it was quite comfortable.

The good news is that I sold pretty well, and so did Kevin. We are going to do it again this coming Saturday. The following week we will be at a fund-raising event for the American Legion in Porterfield WI. Hopefully, we will hit some different folks.

One of the highlights of the trip to Menominee was meeting new people. One fellow rolled up to us in his wheelchair and we began chatting. His t-shirt was emblazened with "Schloegel's." I asked him if he was connected with the restaurant, which I had visited on one occasion when I was in Menominee with our pastor and his wife, and I loved the place. It is set right on the Bay, and the view was beautiful. The food was good too. He sort of grinned and said, "I own the place."

I had tried to get there with Kevin on one of our earlier trips there. My lack of knowledge of how to find anyplace around here is getting monumental. I can get lost easier than anybody I've ever met. (No, that's not bragging--just stating facts.) The weekend we went to a craft fair at nearby Four Seasons Resort (it's only about 15 miles from Amberg), Kevin followed my directions on how to get back home. He said he knew when I said to turn right, he should have turned left. Anyway, it was a beautiful day for a drive--which is how we ended up in Michigan!

Mr. Schloegel gave Kevin directions on how to find the restaurant. "Turn right and just stay on the road until you see it. No turns, nothing. It's just past Perkins." Well, could I help it that we had followed the road around the Bay before by going left instead of right?

That evening there was a concert right next door to the spot where the farmers' market had been (see photo above). The group that was performing was the "Dang-Its." It was a trio that played a fun mixture of blue grass, country western, and sort of old pop tunes. We got there in plenty of time to park right in front of the venue, so it was perfect. We watched as four police officers came up and pulled into the side street and parked their cars. There were a number of cars already parked there, and Kevin and I joked about how they would get out, since the cops pulled two long sawhorse dividers up so no one else could get in. The cops stood there, hands crossed on their chests, legs slightly spread apart, looking very serious. One of the cops was referred to by both the other officers and passersby as "chief." Well, it didn't take very long to see how they would handle one of the cars that wanted to exit. Two of the officers walked over to the sawhorse and went to pick it up and move it over out of the way. The dividing plank was obviously just resting loosely in the slots on the bases, as one of the officers went to pick it up--by the plank--and move it out of the way. Of course, the base dropped to the street, causing a loud "bang," and the action from there on was reminiscent of viewing an old Keystone Kops movie. Ah, but it was a great bit of entertainment for the end of a very good day!

Another highlight of the day at the market was a group of performers who stopped by to give a flash mob from the upcoming performance of Chicago at the Theatre on the Bay (at the U of WI in Marinette). Kevin and I had already decided that we wanted to see it, so as soon as we left the market we headed to Schloegel's and then off to get our tickets. It will be another fun day on this Sat., first at the market, then someplace for a nice relaxing meal, then to the theater for the evening. Does it get any better than this? I'm betting at least the restaurant and the theater will both be air conditioned. And the farmers' market? Well, there is almost always a nice breeze off the Lake and I do have my canopy!

Just to prove that life never gets boring around the Smith household, it was terribly hot yesterday, so after supper I decided to jump in and take a shower. Actually, my bathroom is so small that I can't really "jump" anyplace. It's more like I slither in. I've gotten my impersonation of Charo and her hoochie-koochie act down pat! I am, admittedly, a creature of habit. (As Patrick says, in my Patrick and Grace Mysteries, "Old habits die hard," which I hear is a wonderfully fun book--lol.) Anyway, I have a metal basket hanging in the shower which holds my shampoo and a bottle of wonderfully scented coconut/vanilla shower gel that was a Christmas gift. Well, not thinking about the fact that Kevin might have exchanged the order of the bottles, I uncapped the one that I thought was the shampoo and poured a bit of it onto my hair. Yup, you guessed it. It was the coconut/vanilla one. I probably have the sexiest smelling hair in all of Wisconsin this morning!

I hope you are all staying cool, wherever you are. Make it a great day.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Frustration beyond degree

To say that I am upset is grossly understating what I am feeling right now. My late husband served in the Korean War, proudly, on the front lines. He was, thankfully, not injured in service, but when he was disabled at the age of 64, he was able to draw a disability from both Social Security and the VA.
He passed away in January 2008. While I was able to draw on both his SS and his VA, the amount was cut in half. Now anybody with half a brain knows that two people can’t live as cheaply as one, nor can one live on half what two can live on. My rent, utilities, etc. went on as before. About the only thing that was reduced was clothing, food, his shaving gear, etc. However, I was grateful for what I received from both agencies.
For the entire time since he died up until Dec. last year, the amount SS charged for Medicare Part B was automatically deducted from my SS each month. Last Dec. when I applied for energy assistance in Marinette Co., WI, the case worker was surprised that I was being charged for the Medicare coverage. Due to my low income, she informed me, I should be eligible for a waiver so it would not be deducted. It was approved. However, a short time later I received a notice from the VA office in St. Paul MN that they were now going to reduce my monthly benefits in the same amount as the SS was adding.
I am a Christian woman. I have been a missionary all my life. It’s not often I feel like swearing, but this has me at the point where I am about ready to do so.
I just got off the phone with a man from the St. Paul VA office who was trying to explain why they were reducing my payments each month and that there was no way that the request for a waiver, based on hardship, would be approved. He said, “I understand how hard it is…” I said (pardon my French), “The hell you do! Could you live on $600 a month? I’d like to see you try it.” He said, “Well, there is nothing I can do about it.”

So, I am appealing to anybody that will listen here to see if you have any suggestions of how to get around this? Meanwhile, the cost of living goes up and my income goes back down. This is “the land of the free”? It sure doesn’t feel like Liberty to me right now.

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