Tuesday, May 21, 2019

My New Love

I just returned from a short music-and-art trip to Los Angeles with fifty other people, most of whom were seventy-plus years old and . . . tah-dah . . . I have an announcement:  

I'm in love . . .

with a performer! His name is Conrad Tao and he’s twenty-five years old. I returned from my trip last night, unpacked, ate a frozen dinner, watched a couple of pre-recorded TV shows, then fell into my own bed to sleep nine hours. When awoke, I lay there for a while, reflecting on the delicious jam-packed trip with three-full days of art and music in the company of many fascinating and nice people—led by a gracious and delightful tour leader, Norm Hollingshead. But my thoughts quickly turned to Conrad Tao, so over my morning coffee I reached for my iPad. 

Subsequently, I’ve spent much of the morning, between loads of laundry and breakfast, sobbing in front of my iPad as I watched him perform his musical enchantment close-up.Those tears have made me feel like a thirteen-year-old again, springing from the same passion I felt in eighth grade when, for the very first time, I grasped how the performance of music, with its fusing talent, technique, intellect, and emotion, turns into something greater than the parts. Apparently when an artist touches that chord in me, that soft spot, I fall in love . . . and cry.

My love back then was Pablo Casals—an old man of eighty—triggering emotions in me that had never been tapped. It was his visceral reading of the music in which he occasionally, audibly expressed his emotions as he played his cello that got to me. I knew him only from his recordings (in the days before Internet), but he could be heard sometimes humming over the music, spontaneously joining his cello's [and his chamber-music colleagues in their] execution of Schubert, Dvorak, Schumann, and Bach. That sound—an old man’s involuntary surge of vocalization—prompted my own emotional response (yes, the same as today, sobbing through the music), and I became his lifelong fan. 

Not surprisingly, few peers back then shared my adoration. Maybe no one else reacts that way, but there's a trigger point for me in terms of emotional override. Over the years I’ve felt similarly about other cellists—Yo Yo Ma, and more recently Joshua Roman. But this is the first pianist who's generated that feeling in all my seventy-nine years!


Watch his performance filmed in a special studio by New York’s WQXR on www.conrad.tao.com. Listen to his interview, as well. Not only is he a spectacular musician (both pianist and composer), but like Casals, his body emulates the music as he executes the work. I love that he’s barely begun his career at age twenty five. Not only is he a pianist, he’s also a composer, and . . ..  I’ll stop lest I embarrass myself with too much raving. 

See and listen for yourself. Ironically, when I booked the trip with Norm Hollingshead’s Opera Plus Tours, we were going to hear Lang Lang perform Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto. But Lang Lang’s tendinitis prompted a replacement for that work and Conrad Tao was the artist chosen for the honor. What a serendipitous event!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Riddle

What's fifty-seven years old, holds soup to nuts and everything in between while maintaining the versatility to become a toy, musical instrument, and even part of a costume?

When I received this set of mixing bowls at my bridal shower hosted by my mother's best friend in 1962, little did I expect they'd be a mainstay of my kitchen these sixty years later. As I chilled hard-boiled eggs before Easter this year, I realized what an amazing gift the bowls had been. At the time, I was unimpressed. Stainless mixing bowls?  Too practical to be exciting.

Within the first couple of years of my marriage and its subsequent arrival of babies, I became deeply appreciative of them, however. My toddler children played with them endlessly, inevitably discovering them in the one low kitchen cupboard that didn't have a child-proof lock on it. Stacking them was a source of endless delight--and the ringing of the steel as the bowls bounced off each other is also really fun sound when you're under two.

I've soaked beans in them and whipped up everything you could imagine from waffles, muffins, dips and granola, egg salad and jello. I've tinted frostings, cooled soups, and prepared and served endless offerings of salad and fruits in them. They've been used for water-play in the backyard, worn as hats in neighborhood parades, and been beaten with spoons for in-house celebrations. And every time I reach for one, I think of Harriette McLean, my mother's life-long friend who gave them to me so long ago. Thanks, Aunt Harriette. You sure knew how to pick a useful and lasting gift.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Walking along the local bike/foot trail, I noticed this reflection in a puddle.

The universe, or at least a teeny overhead bite, was staring back at me from the ground. Of course, I had to pull out my phone and snap a picture . . . and just to make sure I'd know what I was looking at, I intentionally included my foot.

Black and white photos are fun to take on a whim. Only a decade ago, I would have been carrying a camera with film in it. There certainly was no way to decide to take a b&w photo if colored film was loaded, and vice-versa. Ah, the modern world.

Despite the poor reproduction of these shots (not enough pixels, perhaps?) I like the idea of looking down to see what's above.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Guaranteed Unanswerable Question

"How's everybody doing," asks my fitness instructor as she looks out over her class of twenty-five sweating participants. I can't count the number of times I've heard that asked of a group and how many times the questioner looks disappointed because of the ensuing non-response.

It's the kind of question that is all too often asked of people in any type of group activity. "How's everybody with the room temperature?" How can anybody answer that question. I don't know how everybody feels! I can only respond for myself.

 Much more answerable would be "Should I bring out the fans?" and the answer could communicated easily in the form of an audible YES or NO from individual participants. The answer to "How are you doing?" could be answered with an audible OK or thumbs up (or thumbs down, too) from most people in the group.

A lot of questions are unanswerable: Is there life after death? Are human rights intrinsic? Will the United States survive to celebrate its 300th birthday? But one unanswerable question becomes answerable with a tiny word-choice change. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A rose by any other name . . .

A recent anthology of essays, poems, and even a couple of short plays includes several items authored by me. As anyone who writes and submits their work knows, it can be terrifying to let someone putting a book together read previously non-critiqued work. Once the author sends off the submission, a storm of insecurity blows back hard, so it's all the more exciting when the word "acceptance" appears in the eventual response.

In December 2017 I submitted several poems and essays in response to a call by Elizabeth Coplan for short works on the topic of death and grief. In July 2018 I, along with sixty others heard good news. Acceptance! The book was rushed into print so it could be unveiled at the Reimagine End of Life week in NYC in late October, so not surprisingly, there were some typos and copy editing oversights in it. We all have experienced fallout from needing to accelerate a project too quickly.

After itemizing the small errors in my work and receiving confirmation changes had been made, I was confident in the revised first-edition, which was issued in late January. I was taken aback by the appearance of the same mistakes in the revision. But . . . I'm a big girl. I got over it.

Since 1990 I've been published in the following local outlets: Seattle Times, Prime Time, The Stranger, Eastside Journal, and University of Washington Alumni Travel Association, as well as a 2010 anthology by Nancy Worssam, In Our Prime: Empowering Essays by Women on Love, Family, Career, Aging, and Just CopingWith one exception, all that published work (multiple pieces in several of the outlets) had the correct attribution: Sara J. Glerum, my legal name. The Seattle Times published one of my travel pieces with lower-case j. as my middle initial, which annoyed me at the time. Probably no one notices but the author, but it's cringe-worthy to see myself in one volume as the following: Sarah Glerum (h and no middle initial), Sara Glerum (no middle initial), Sara J Glerum (no period after the J), as well as the 'real me,' Sara J. Glerum. 

BUT . . . even with the "h" and no middle initial, I'm still happy to be in Grief Dialogues: Stories on Love and Loss, especially when I learned the book has been nominated for a Northwest Booksellers' Award because of its purpose. As you can probably guess, it's intended to help demystify death by talking about the one event in life we are guaranteed to experience. I'm proud to be part of the movement and the anthology.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Why the Y? Let me count the ways . . .


I'm going to tout the YMCA's good work for a moment. Yes, you've heard me before on the topic; it's a passion of mine. If you have a Y in your neighborhood or community, I'm guessing it has a fund drive going on now (and it most certainly does if you live in the Greater Seattle area). If you like the idea of helping an organization that helps people get healthier--youth, children, adults of all ages, including people my age (old), please consider making a gift.

The Y is a non-profit organization that quietly gives back to its communities. It is much broader now than it was 165 years ago when it was founded, but its generous reason for being is the same. However, you don't need to be young or Christian or male to participate. Nowadays the YMCA is as inclusive an organization as exists anywhere in the world.

Many of its programs are offered at no charge to anyone who needs them. Cancer survivors can participate in a twelve week LiveStrong program, families with children struggling with obesity referred by their physicians or school nurses can participate in a program designed to change eating and exercise habits for the whole family, also a twelve week program. Y memberships for the entire family at zero cost to them are included with both programs, and they are just two of many the healthy-living programs available to members and community.

Financial help and scholarships abound, and that's the main reason for our fund drive. Everyone knows about the Y summer camps, and many have heard of teen leadership program in which teens in grades 8-12 learn about, and engage, with the legislative process. But lots happens behind the scenes. For instance, my branch partners with the local school district to send teens who qualify for lunch subsidies home with backpacks filled with fresh produce and healthy snacks for weekends. Another generous thing my Y does is to have "women-only nights" so that women with faith-based reasons for not swimming or exercising in mixed company can utilize the Y's facilities.

A gift to my branch of the Y will actually allow almost 2,500 people to access programs, including before and after school care for kids.  If you don't want to donate to my YMCA, how about donating to yours?  It's a great organization.

But . . . if you want to help my fundraising efforts (I've committed to raising $3,000), just click the link that follows. You can make your gift here and every little bit helps. And a lot of people will join me in saying thank you. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Deserved Customer Loyalty

The picture says it all. Yesterday I heard a funny clicking coming from my car's back right tire as I slowly drove through my 10 MPH street. As I gained speed on the  major road, I didn't hear anything, so I stopped worrying. I was running several errands on my way to my favorite local bookstore and stopped at the post office to mail an over-sized envelope. When I returned to my car, I noticed the head of a large bolt stuck in the tread of the rear-right tire. (Oh, how I wish I had taken a photo of it.) Aha! That was the source of the sound I heard. My dashboard low-tire icon was NOT lit . . . but nevertheless, Les Schwab Tires was on my way, so I pulled into its parking lot.

The service person, who had rushed out to greet me while I was just pulling in, asked me how he could help. After locating the bolt, he told me he would extract it, then check to see if the tire was losing any air. "Looks promising--it likely hasn't punctured the tire, but don't worry, M'am. We won't let you leave until we know the tire is OK or repaired."

It did lose air when the bolt was extracted, and within half-hour, at NO CHARGE to me, the tire was repaired. As a person who is consistently timid about car malfunctions, I couldn't have been more relieved or happier.

Thank you, Les Schwab Tires! If only every merchant were as smartly run--understanding that helping with something little gains fierce customer loyalty--the world would be a better place.