sonic coping strategy

Music has always been important to me. Neither of my parents played instruments, at least not in my lifetime, but they both liked listening to music so it was a common feature in my early life. My mom liked contemporary rock – Bryan Adams, Tina Turner, John Cougar Mellencamp. Saturday mornings were for cleaning the house, and dancing around to ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ got us through many a post-cartoon bout of dusting and putting away laundry. My dad was into older, harder stuff – Z.Z. Top, Blue Oyster Cult, Cream, Pink Floyd, old Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin. He also liked country though, so I was just as likely to be singing along to ‘Mama, He’s Crazy’ by the Judds rather than Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ when I was with him.

When I was old enough to have my own little boombox as a kid, the first things I went for were pop – Michael Jackson (‘Bad’ was the very first tape I ever got) and Paula Abdul featured heavily – but I also started exploring a lot of my parents’ cassettes too. Albums like Aerosmith’s ‘Toys In The Attic’, The Grateful Dead’s ‘Shakedown Street’, and Billy Joel’s ‘An Innocent Man’, along with greatest hits compilations from Steppenwolf and The Beatles, all made it into my regular rotation. We didn’t have a lot of money so I couldn’t go out and buy new music very often, but it didn’t take me long to discover that time-honored 80’s tradition of taping music off the radio. I recorded the local rock station most often, as that’s what my little boom-box picked up with the best reception. This introduced me to such wonders as The Scorpions, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica. By middle school I had a part-time job and a little pocket money, almost all of which was usually spent on music. Hip-hop was just starting to show up in the music stores up here around that time, and I embraced acts like MC Hammer, C+C Music Factory, and Digital Underground with the fervor only a newly minted teenager looking to set herself apart from the tastes of her parents’ generation can muster. High school ushered in my (predictable, in retrospect) transition to harder rock and goth music. I was obsessed with The Crow (again, predictable), and the soundtrack to that movie introduced me to groups like Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against The Machine – all groups I still adore more than two decades on. When ADHD first reared its head and I started having trouble concentrating as a teenager, music helped considerably. Counting Crows’ ‘August and Everything After’ got me through many hours of homework, and the first short story I ever wrote was to an endless loop of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’.

Today, I’m a grumpy middle-aged woman with a very boring day job. Alas, all those fantasies of becoming a musician didn’t pan out (not that I tried to make them, admittedly), but music is still a deeply important part of my day-to-day life. It has become my main coping strategy, not just in terms of dealing with my ADHD symptoms, but also my depression and anxiety. When I’m having a particularly anxious day, I’ll listen to a lot of Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross, wonderful local bluegrass / folk artists whose shows I’ve attended many times and who serve as anchors to the here-and-now for me. When I’m angry, I go for the catharsis of Rage Against The Machine, Incubus or Audioslave (I hope you found peace,Chris. You will be missed so much more than you could ever have imagined). If I need to power through piles of particularly boring data entry, I like the flow of older hip-hop and rap like A Tribe Called Quest, WuTang Clan, and The Beastie Boys, or the driving, trance-like beats of EDM.

If you have any favorite artists or playlists that help get you through the day, I’d love to hear about them. I use Spotify at work and enjoy exploring new music. I’ll listen to anything once! My main playlist, which is a super mixed up mess of everything from funk to metal to rap to comedy tracks, can be found here if you want to do some exploring of your own, or just want to listen along with me at work.

 

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I’d claim this is a self-portrait, but my nails are nowhere near that long.

We don’t need no stinkin’ Pilgrims

We don’t go around the table saying what we’re thankful for at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

We don’t say grace, we don’t make toasts. There’s no pontificating about the ‘founding fathers’ at our table because that’s not what Thanksgiving is about for us.

Our Thanksgiving is about laughing as much as it’s about eating.

It’s consistently sitting down to eat at least an hour after we said we would, no matter who is doing the cooking…and being totally fine with that because no one has anywhere else to be.

It’s dogs begging for table treats and people picking at leftovers long after they’ve proclaimed they couldn’t eat another bite.

It’s my husband and my dad watching football together – except my dad falls asleep about ten minutes after he sits down.

It’s my mom and I putting away leftovers and immediately doing all the dishes because that’s how my Nana rolled when my mom was growing up and some habits are worth keeping.

It’s three kinds of pie when we said we were only going to have two, because come on. More pie is ALWAYS better.

Pilgrims and Native Americans don’t factor into our Thanksgiving in the least. Some people might say that’s wrong – that we’re not remembering why we’re here in the first place, that we’ve lost the true meaning of the holiday. I don’t feel the least bit bad though, because I’ve got the three most important people in my life at my table eating and laughing together for another year. Life is short and often brutal, and time is our dearest commodity. Spending it with the people I love is always what I’ll be most thankful for.

Also, did I mention the third pie?

You CAN’T feel bad when there’s three pies available. Well, not mentally, anyway. Physically…maybe.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends…whatever that means to you.

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This is one of the holiday cacti I inherited when my Nana passed away in September. This one was in full bloom for Thanksgiving. She always did like to be on time.

I’ll take ‘WTF Do We Do Now’ for $1,000, Alex

My family is all pretty close, at least in the geographic sense, if not the emotional sense. We all basically live within about ten minutes’ drive of each other. A strong love of place no doubt factors into why we’ve all stayed so close to the area we grew up in, but stronger still was the near-gravitational pull of my maternal grandmother Mary, aka: Nana.

It’s not that she ever made any of us feel like we couldn’t or shouldn’t move away and do our own things; she just had a way of making people want to be around her. She was funny, kind, welcoming and generous with her time. She liked nothing more than to have people stop by for a visit and tell her all about what they’d been up to. You could sit and talk her ear off for hours, but when you finally sighed and said you guessed it was time to go, she’d always say “well, you don’t have to hurry”, as if she’d be just fine with you going on about your boring-ass day for another hour or two. And she probably would have been, because that’s just how she was.

Nana was the force holding us all together around her, but she was also someone I looked up to and admired greatly. For all her softness, her generosity of spirit and her ability to make people feel comfortable, she also had extraordinary strength of will. She was whip smart, fiercely independent, and when that woman set her mind to do something, you had two choices: get on board or get the hell out of the way. She was born in the middle of the Great Depression to an already dirt-poor family of miners and subsistence farmers. Education and hard work were the only ways out of that situation, and she made a life-long habit of both. Her mantra was that you could do anything you put your mind to, and she was living proof of it. The stories she told affected me from a very early age, both directly from her tellings and indirectly via the way she had brought up my mother and aunts. Nana was a woman I aspired to be like; she was the stick I tried to measure myself against.

The call came early Monday morning that she had quite unexpectedly died. She had been fine the day before – she had gone out for her regular Sunday morning breakfast at the diner, she had done her grocery shopping and washed some windows, and she had spent the evening visiting and watching the Patriots game on TV with some family members. It had been pretty much her perfect day. At some point very early Monday morning she had woken up with chest pains, called my aunt (who lives next door), called the ambulance…and she was gone before they even got her halfway to the hospital. The whole ordeal probably lasted less than a couple hours, depending on how long she waffled before she decided to call my aunt for help. She had high blood pressure but she hadn’t had any serious heart problems above and beyond what would be expected of an 81 year old woman. She had suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis for more than a decade though, and while she didn’t generally speak of it much, she was in a lot of pain on a daily basis – sometimes to the point of being quite debilitated. In the past few weeks she had apparently expressed to several family members her desire to ‘just go to sleep’, and her worries about trying to make it through another tough winter. I don’t think that she would have decided to take something in order to end her own suffering, but I do very much believe in the power of will and the ability to talk one’s self into dying if that’s what they truly want…and I believe that’s what she did.

Nana wouldn’t have wanted a fuss to be made over her. She would have liked for us to take what we wanted of her stuff, give the rest away to people that it might help, and then get on with our lives.

So, that’s what I’ll try to do. It won’t be easy. But, like Nana taught me, I can do anything that I put my mind to.

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Mary Godfrey – 3/31/1935 – 9/12/2016 Photo credit: R. Williams

Lilac Season

There are several enormous lilac bushes that grow just outside my office. And when I say “enormous”, I mean that the tops of the bushes are level with my second-story office window:

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Stupid fucking window glare! I’m an accountant Jim, not a photographer. Also, objects in this picture are way closer than they actually appear. If I popped out the window screen I could reach out and pick those lilacs.

So really, they’re more lilac TREES than bushes at this point, given they’re like 12 feet tall.

IS there technically a bush / tree height classification cut-off point?  Are bushes only bushes until they reach a certain height, then they’re considered trees? Who would arbitrate such decisions? Why is life so confusing?  Where are my shoes?

Anyway.

When the lilacs first start to bloom, my office is the best-smelling place in the world. The scent wafts in on the breeze, so ethereal that you’re not even quite sure whether it’s actually there or just a figment of your imagination. It’s like being gently haunted by the essence of springs past. It makes me think of the lilac bush (also much more tree-like in stature) that grows on the corner of my parents’ lawn, and makes me remember my childhood ritual of picking several vases full of lilacs for my mom’s birthday every year.

As more lilacs bloom, the scent gets stronger. Two or three days after that first magical ghost-of-springs-past whiff, you’re into Obvious Lilac Smell territory. I don’t mind OLS territory. It still smells good in a non-distracting way, like a pleasant background note.

Four to five days after the initial bloom things start to really go downhill, though. The scent becomes this syrupy, ironically almost artificial smelling caricature of the original exceedingly delicate scent. This usually coincides with a heatwave around these parts, which only serves to further intensify what has now becoming overzealous granny perfume stank. Baked lilac is NOT a good scent, folks. At its zenith, it’s nearly strong enough to taste and is borderline headache-inducing. This is the point at which I usually find myself stomping around shutting windows and firing up the A/C, just to escape the smell.

Speaking of which, it’s supposed to be 90 degrees here today, so if you’ll excuse me I have a few last deep sniffs of reasonable-level lilac smell to enjoy before I slam all these windows shut, fire up this industrial-sized air conditioner and descend into a nice cool cocoon of white noise, low humidity and non-smelly-ness.