Random Acts of "Kindness"

Posts tagged ‘music’


I have to admit that I have never been to Ireland. I don’t know if the opportunity to visit will ever come. My mother’s father was from there. I have finally learned the county that he was from but since I don’t know his birthdate or any other pertinent information, and his last name was very common — I’m not trying to learn anything more. I’ve titled this thought ramble Irish Morning not because the day reminded me of Ireland but because I was having lunch with a dear friend. She is not only Irish but she came from across the water. For years she lived on my block, went to Mass with us on Sunday. But time passes and our bodies reflect the passing. She had trouble walking up and down the stairs in her house. She moved to a Catholic senior residence. Even though she is on the third floor, they have elevators.

She phoned a few days ago and invited me for lunch. Of course, I accepted immediately. Then she fell, and we postponed the date. Then the snow fell on rain drenched stairs and I didn’t like the crunch as I swept the stairs. And we postponed it again. The day finally came, cold but with sunshine — blue skies. If I gave serious thought to the meeting, I wouldn’t have arrived empty handed. Ooops!

Her residence has many opportunities for a person to stay busy. I passed a room where art work decorated the window. I recognized the name of a friend and stopped to take a photo. A woman passed by with her son and asked if that artwork was mine. I admitted that it was a friend’s, I wasn’t a resident. She had recently moved in and was having trouble adjusting. I had to share a story of my recent painting experience and a photo of the finished art work. She didn’t paint or draw. She used to sing but has lost her voice. I suggested she just sing to herself inside her head. She was on her way to therapy. I was navigating the halls, looking for the building were my friend’s apartment was.

SUCCESS! We had a pleasant visit but more snow and rain was in the forecast. I really didn’t want to get stuck out in the weather. I learned that she had had a stroke a couple of years before. Somehow I missed that information. Her son used to live on our block and shared information about his mother. He rented their house a couple of years back, and moved to an apartment. I no longer receive current news. She is doing well now — in her late 90’s. Not bothered by the aftermath of her fall.

Going back down I shared the elevator with a woman who had a lovely accent. When I asked, she admitted she was from Ireland. Walking down the hall with her, I voiced the question of a bathroom. Two gentlemen going in the opposite direction pointed to a sign on the wall. I told my companion that I’ve noticed that when I ask a question, I often get an immediate answer. I wondered if the same thing happened to her.

Leaving — I met the same woman I saw when I first arrived. She hadn’t slept well the night before and was heading to her apartment for a nap before supper. I mentioned that it must be hard, giving up her house, her car and living in a new place. There were people there from her parish but the friendship is just starting.



Looking back — it doesn’t seem that many years ago. Looking for landmarks — reality sets in. It was an EXTREMELY LONG TIME AGO! Our youngest daughter was a toddler. I’ve always loved to dance. The opportunity arose when I learned of square dance lessons in our neighborhood. It sounded like fun. My husband agreed to try it. It was fun! We learned the basic steps, then the opportunity arose to learn more — advanced to be specific. That also was fun. The caller announced he was going to teach lessons to introduce people to calling. I thought my husband would enjoy it. He liked to play chess — my reasoning — he would enjoy moving people.

AND HE DID. The problem occurred as he became more accomplished in calling. He LOVED to call, he didn’t want to dance anymore. I became extremely good at dancing the male part. I became his agent, handling bookings, and other assorted tasks. I learned how to call line dances. And life was busy. He added more equipment and records to his arsenal. I don’t know exactly why he stopped calling. We had gotten older, he wanted to take evening classes at college, being out at night so many nights of the week was tiring? What ever the reason — he gave up calling but kept all of his equipment and records. FOR YEARS!

Recently he redid his office and moved a lot of stuff to another room. Remnants of calling included not only his phonograph, but also boxes of records and three sets of speakers. The speakers were huge, and heavy. Since his equipment was still in working order, we didn’t want to put it out in the trash. The many square dance clubs that we had known, where no longer functioning. Their members like ourselves had aged.

I thought we could donate it to a music school. Every time we learned of a person who was still calling, for one reason or another the lead fell through. Our computer ended up being a great help. My husband put in a request for square dancing in our area and learned of a new club that was only minutes from our house. They had members who were interested in learning to call. They would love to have his equipment.

For the last time –he put some records on the turntable, hooked up his microphone and enjoyed calling. He sounded terrific. But we both agreed that it wasn’t something we wanted to go back into. I don’t think my knees would let me, not to mention if I would remember more than a couple of steps.

We were VERY HAPPY to donate the equipment were it would still be used.


When I wrote a thought ramble about Barnaby, the cat which chose us on Independence day, I chose to publish it on Aug. 5. At that time I didn’t know that the local high school was planning for a three day performance of CATS, the musical. I’m familiar with the play and the music. I have enjoyed it performed by professionals on the stage two times. Watching Cats again sounded like a good time. CATS — the play was on Aug. 6.

If I said I was impressed, it would be an understatement. I had NEVER attended a performance in the high school before. I found the store that was selling tickets and was asked which seat I preferred. I didn’t know I would be able to chose a seat. I thought I would be seating on bleachers or folding chairs. I was WRONG. The person selling the tickets suggested that I might like an aisle seat. Worked for me! This way I could easily move for the others in my row. I was given D1. Four rows from the stage.

The theater vied with other professional venues. Seats were comfortable, temperature cool enough and audio excellent. The high school has put on summer performances for many years. Although we have spent many years at our campground — the plays at the high school didn’t catch my attention until now. I asked the director if all the cast were students — I learned the ages of the actors ranged from 14 to 70. It is a community enterprise.

One of the life guards at our pool was in the cast. She has performed in five previous plays. I knew which cat she portrayed and enjoyed following her character. I took the opportunity on Monday to inquire about other various performances that caught my attention. The woman who sang Memories had an amazing voice as did a few of the other performers.

I will keep my eyes open in July of 2018. If at all possible, I would love to go to another play at the high school. Great venue, professional cast and affordable seats — count me in!


Feeling old, temperature at 93 degrees and rising. Did I really want to go downtown? Blues Fest weekend — 33rd to be exact. My husband does not like crowds. He is not really into the Blues, Country is his music. Did I really want to go downtown? I knew asking him to go with me in the high heat, and crowds was not good for him. For years I never went down to attend the FREE events — because he didn’t want to go and I didn’t go without him.

One year, their 25th to be exact, I decided to wander down and have been a regular attendee since then. I realized that I really like Rhythm and Blues. Of course there is not much in the way of music that I don’t like. Heavy Metal might be one. The first time I went down, I got in line for the concerts at Petrillo Music Shell, sitting off to the right, three to four rows from the stage. I have enjoyed watching the signers (words into motion) and listening to some of the great Blues artists. Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters, to name a few. I have stayed late and wandered home after dark. I have spoken to people from England that planned their vacation to be in Chicago for the Blue’s Fest.

This year we were back in town. My husband had doctor appointments scheduled for Friday and Monday. Saturday and Sunday were free. The forecast for Friday was in the 90’s. So was Saturday. A cold front was coming in Saturday night so Sunday was scheduled to be cooler. Both of my knees didn’t like me. My good (?) knee tangled with an underwater swimmer in the pool and was damaged. My left knee was still protesting when I wore shoes that affected my knee and hip. Reason told me to stay home.

If you have been reading my thought rambles for some time you are probably aware of the fact that I am stubborn and often don’t listen! 93 temperatures weren’t going to keep me home. I promised to drink plenty of water, stay in the shade and be aware of how I was feeling. I asked which stops had elevators downtown and walked a little farther to avoid taking the stairs. (Both coming and leaving.) I planned to wear new shoes so as not to cause any more injury to my body. I thought carefully of the clothes I was wearing to protect myself from the sun. I decided not to carry a chair — it would be too heavy, I would look for places to sit down. From past experience I knew that sitting on the ground was out, I’d never get up.

I realized that I had been on my feet too long and looked for an empty spot on a bench when I entered the park. Right in front of my eyes was a spot — I asked if I could sit down and was told that I could only until the photographer returned. When he returned, I was invited to stay. THANK YOU!

The gentleman was originally from Illinois, but moved to California where he recently retired. They bought a RV with a toy compartment for his Harley and wander the country visiting Blues Fest’s and Harley Davidson meets. His companion was from the Monterey Bay area. He grows strawberries by the Salinas river. I met my husband in California, our eldest daughter was born in Carmel. I felt right at home — the music was good, the shade comfortable — I stayed until the set was over.

I always wander the whole Fest, checking out the food, the artists. They had amazing FREE rib samples. Wandering here — there, I realized I needed to sit down. Lines where forming for the Music Shell and possibly because of the heat, instead of just one, many lines had formed. I joined one and got FRONT ROW seating. (Sadly my camera was at home.) I totally enjoyed the national anthem sung by Nellie Travis in a beautiful red, blue and white gown. (Sunday I complimented her on her singing and appearance. I asked one of the venue operators to pass on the compliment but it was suggested I tell her myself.)

This has passed the word count I usually use so I will quickly end this. Sunday was cooler, my husband joined me and carried chairs. We used the elevator again and spent time in the shade and also the sun. I saw people that I knew. We didn’t stay for the evening performance and we walked back to the Library to take the elevator. Combined total steps for both days was 37,867. I couldn’t believe it. I’m TIRED but I sure don’t feel OLD!


Our son has a beautiful car, but it is not designed for snow and ice. He planned to take the car out Saturday — he got as far as the alley behind our house where he hit a patch of ice. Tires spun, no traction. We were still home — my husband was able to HELP — push the car back into the garage. We offered him our car but our son decided not to make the trip.

Because of the frigid temperatures, Robin hasn’t been getting her long walks and her sleeping through the night has been affected. Sadly when I wake up, I have trouble getting back to sleep. Instead of seven hours of sleep I’m getting four or five and it is taking it’s toll. Although I don’t have a cold, my nose is running and I’m coughing a lot. The various sleeping aids I’ve taken haven’t really helped.

We were still home and able to go to Mass on Saturday night. We used to go to church on Sunday morning but they have changed the Mass schedule. The early Mass is too early for my husband to rise, get dressed, take his medicine and get to church on time. We’ve been going on Saturday night. It works well, sort of. When we get home, I still have to make supper. We are eating even later. I’m trying to come up with dishes that will cook while we are gone.

We were at Mass for the first weekend celebration of Lent. In order to highlight the season, it was decided to limit the music to voice only — no piano or organ. The musical director assembled a choir and they sang from the balcony. They had beautiful voices but without music to announce the beginning of a song — the congregation could not participate. They didn’t have a printed song sheet — the music numbers were in the bulletin without the name of the songs. The cantor who had been in front for the beginning of Mass, went up to the loft. I have to admit that I like to sing, and missed joining in. I tried for the second song but that was not the song listed. I’ll admit that I gave up. I didn’t bother trying to join in on melodies we had rehearsed before Mass. It is said, that when you sing, you involve your whole body in the song. My body was definitely left out. I might have stayed calm except they sang a spiritual that I would have enjoyed singing. My dander began to rise. It reminded me of the Masses we used to have when I was still in school — the congregation DID NOT PARTICIPATE in the service. I decided that my concern needed to be shared. I found a friend who could pass my concern on to the pastor. Then I decided to tell him myself. He understood and had a few concerns of his own. He suggested that I talk to the music director. I didn’t think I would be able to do that — BUT I HAVE “FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES”. I saw the music director pass my line of vision and took advantage of the opportunity. Then I found our pastor, and told him I had shared my concern.

And it isn’t even the anniversary of my father’s birthday yet. Even though the temperature is still in the single digits, the roads will be dry. We hope to travel to our daughters on his birthday.


It dawned on me after I posted COUNTING that I left out a part that was of “help” to me this holiday season. I LOVE to cook — not gourmet — just plain, family style fare. After cooking almost daily for more years than I wish to count, I’m running out of ideas. Of course, the food would also have to be stuff my family would eat. Not as easy as it sounds.

I have more friends in high places this year who also liked to cook. Are they helping to enlighten me? Good question — no answer. Recently I received three recipes that are a hit. One is for chicken in a crockpot. That recipe was on Facebook. A cookie recipe was on the afternoon news. A third for apple pie bites was on a cooking show. All three — from various sources that I don’t always frequent — were a hit with my family. I didn’t plan to get together with a friend before Christmas but suddenly I had a free day and she did too. We stopped in a grocery store where I learned that ham with a $25 purchase for other food was only 79 cents a pound. Ham is a favorite of our family. The sell date was February. I couldn’t pass up the savings. Maybe I should mention that this wasn’t the first time that I have chanced on a deal for ham. Let me say “thank you” just in case I forgot.

Very quiet Christmas morning, walking to Mass behind a family of four. The father whistled a Christmas song as he walked. By now, if you have read many of my rambles, you know I enjoy music. I enjoyed tagging behind the family. Music was abundant at church as well. I attend an early morning Mass. The music director and the cantor where accompanied not only by an organ or piano but also TWO horns, and a violin. This was their first Mass of the day with three more to follow. There were three Masses on the Eve. I didn’t expect the extra accompaniment. The church with the manger and trees with lights was beautiful. On the way home a flock of large birds landed in a neighboring tree. As I wondered who they were, I heard a crow caw. Question answered.

My mother passed over when I was four. I’m confident she has been behind the scenes for all of my years. She was smart and kept her involvement hidden — or I was purposely blocked until my father passed over and let the cat out of the bag. The house we are living in, although in the city, is perfect for us. It was only a mile away from my husband’s job. He didn’t have a long commute every day. It was in an affordable German neighborhood. The neighborhood is no longer affordable — I never dreamed I would be living in a neighborhood that had million dollar houses. It is close to shopping, the lake and I can get downtown via public transportation. It is big enough to shelter my growing family when they come to town. Over a hundred years old, it would not compete with the more expensive houses. Was my mother involved in our search for a house? Many good questions. No answers. And do I really need the question answered?

Still counting my gifts, my family tops the list. I could keep counting my gifts but this ramble is long enough already. It would probably help if I kept a daily list of the many gifts that come my way. That way I might remember but if history repeats itself, I’ll get busy, think I will remember, and forget.


The title of this thought ramble is courtesy of my friend Catherine. She often told me — “Life is calm, I’m walking peacefully when all of a sudden, without any warning, I’m on an ice field and I fall through.” That was her way of describing a bout of depression. I remembered the phrase recently when, the ice broke, and I fell through. Its not like I didn’t have any warning that it was coming. After all, it was the Fall of the year, leaves were falling, cooler temperature, gray skies. I was a year older. Various body parts were showing their age — not working as well as they used to. The messages coming through were to focus on the present, the past is gone and the future is still to come. And I ignored the messages. After all, I thought I had dealt with the issues from the past and moved on. WRONG! All of a sudden I was remembering my childhood. Searching for happy memories. Since it wasn’t necessarily a white picket fence, happy family — it isn’t a place I enjoy visiting. My father did the best he could and so, I guess, did I.

I was worried that my father would fall into the past when his memory declined because of Alzheimer’s. I was afraid he would remember the fire and the death of my mother and brother. Thankfully he was protected from those dark times.

Searching for a way back to the surface, back to the light, I hit the stop button in my brain. I turned on music to help distract my thinking. I’ve heard that when you are asleep — lost in a nightmare, you can tell your brain to stop — it is only a dream. I tried the same concept — even though I was awake. I refused to go down the same dark path that I have traveled many times before.

I would love to state that I exercised because I know that works to ease stress. I did Tai Chi but not any strenuous exercise. I felt I had no time, too much to do. And if truth be told, I do. I don’t know if I’m moving in slow motion but everything I try to do seems to take longer. Of course, I’m still trying to do many things at once. Instead of enjoying the quiet while I exercised, I turned on the TV. Yo-Yo Ma was the guest speaker, he has a new CD — Playlist on the Borders. I was reminded of the time, many years ago, when he was a gift to me. I planned to go to the Celtic Fest downtown in the city. It was early afternoon — a line of people by the Chicago Symphony caught my eye. It was a free day and I changed my mind and joined the line. It took a long time to enter. Yo-Yo Ma was the featured artist. He delayed the concert until everyone was seated. I enjoyed myself totally and stayed until 10:00 PM.

I often have “help” from the other side. The key is to recognize it.

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