Category Archives: General Info

On Behalf of the Dying

My friend is dying. A friend I’ve never met in life except through phone calls and a few videos we send back and forth. Oil_Can_Harry is his name on SingSnap…a site devoted to people who love to sing…but his real name is Jack. I just realized I don’t even know his last name. Sad really. But my dear friend called me yesterday when I was away. The message on the answering machine was, “Well Hon, I got some bad news from the Dr. today, I wanted to talk to you about it.” I called him back immediately. A few weeks ago I had called him and we had discussed his serious heart problem. So serious, in fact, that his Dr. began providing Hospice services for him. Jack has one daughter who lives several hundred miles north of him. There is no wife, no close friends that he’s ever told me about, just the friends that he’s made at http://www.singsnap.com.

Jack is the only guy I’ve ever allowed to be a bit ornery when talking to me. His old piss and vinegar attitude and gravely voice are all I knew about him. You can immediately tell the heart of gold this guy has, so when I called him back, I was irreverent, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Hey darlin, what in the hell are you doing?” (we call each other darlin alot) Jack:Well, I was just about to lie down.. “So what’s going on, you sounded pretty serious on the message?” Jack:”Well darlin, I’m trying to decide which day I die.”

I sat back in the chair not really fully understanding what he meant at that time, thinking he was being maudlin and just poking a bit at me to get a reaction. “Why’s that Jack? What’d the Dr. say that makes you say that.” Jack:”Well, they’re gonna pull the plug on me and I have to decide which day I wanna do it.”

Suddenly I was thrust in my mind to a scene at a hospital with my father-in-law who was on the verge of death. My husband and his brother had to make a decision on when to pull the plug to allow their father to die. Then I was immediately pulled forward to two years ago when, by a decision of my side of the family, we allowed my father to die. My father’s death haunts me to this day. It wasn’t the quiet peaceful death I’d seen on television:I was expecting that, instead I saw a man reduced to a gray pulp, mouth gaping, struggling for his last breaths of air. A scene I relive over and over again in my mind to this day.

My thoughts came back immediately to Jack. “Jack, has something changed, are you worse? Why are you even contemplating this?” Jack:”Well, I’m tired darlin, my hearts completely give out, my kidneys are shutting down, and I don’t want to go through dialysis. I’ve decided to let them pull the plug. It’s not like it’s going to be today and probably not even tomorrow. The doctor says I should just pick a day and he’ll make all the arrangements and come on over to the house and we’ll do it.”

There was sadness in his voice, God why wouldn’t there be, but there was something else. A quiet peace. It was as if he had really thought about the decision, found an answer that he could comply with and was ready to carry on.

There’s more to the story, but it consists mostly of me crying, him saying one of his favorite days was meeting me, but that’s the personal stuff.

My husband called on another line while I was speaking to Jack, so I let him go with a promise to call him again. My husband ascertained quickly that I was upset and asked what was wrong, so I told him. Hubster:”Haven’t I told you not to get too close to people. You just get too upset. You don’t even really know him.”

I’ve always been blessed with making friends. I think perhaps I may use the word “FRIEND”
too easily sometimes. I hold people in my heart over the smallest of things. People have been my greatest joy and sometimes my greatest sorrow. I would rather have a very good friend for one day than never have had the encounter with them at all.

I thought many hours about how someone, when given the news that their life is truly nearing an end, internalizes that information. I know there are several processes in grieving. Are these the same emotions one would go through if given the time-line of their own demise? First there would be the shock of the news, then the fear, the anger, the bargaining for more life, the resolution of the truth and finally the death itself. The reflection goes on from day one of the process. Have I lived my life in a manner that I wanted? Why didn’t I go after that opportunity?

Then I came to a realization, one I’ve known all along really. We are all finite, we do not know our last hour in most cases, however we all live with the knowledge that we are going to die. I’m sitting at a kitchen table writing this, but anything could happen. It could be an embolism, a freak accident, who knows? The point is while sitting here, I realize that this moment could be my last, and if it is have I lived the last few hours in a way that people will say, “That Londie, she was Fun, she was imaginative, she was a go getter, she always encouraged others, and she had a good heart.”

About Jack…when I started this article back in February, I thought Jack wouldn’t be here much longer. I made it a point to call him weekly and say, “Hey Jack, not today. Don’t choose to go today please. I want to talk to you one more time.” I’m very proud and happy to say Jack is still here. He’s no worse, and he’s much happier, but in our last conversation the other day he said this to me. “Londie, I know you want me to keep going, but darlin, one of these days it’ll happen and I want you to be prepared for it.” I couldn’t believe what he said…he wanted ME to be prepared for it. What an honor to be thought of so highly by someone I don’t really even know well. Thanks for the Life Lesson, you’ve made me such a better person because of knowing you…Oh and Jack…Not today…I wanna talk to you One More Time!

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Not Forgotten

I walked through tall amber and green grasses to find you

You lying peacefully beneath the brown earth and blue sky

Awaiting someone who has not come for so long

Because the pain of being without you was too much to bear

Pausing to remove a weed or two from where your feet lie

Rearranging the faded blooms of silk left by another

Patting the marble as though it was your hand

I stand transfixed in memory, savoring the moment

Knowing full well I may not venture here again

I turn to go but feel the pull of your no longer beating heart

Telling me that it’s ok to live my life without you

Assuring me that life for me will return to what it was

But the memory of that moment of your passing haunts me

And I can’t let go that memory even though I try

Forgive me for not visiting more but I don’t think of you here

I think of us alongside a riverbank, basking in the moment

Enjoying the sun, smelling the water and the grass

As we sit together awaiting nothing but having everything

I’m leaving you now

But I’m taking you with me everywhere I go

Our journeys will take us to many places but none so sweet

As when I sit alone on the riverbank knowing you are there

Watching and providing the warmth that I feel

Four Minutes Apart and Counting

Sometimes things happen in your life for a reason. You may not know just what the reason is, however, there’s always this small voice that tries to reassure you that everything will be alright. Some may call it wishful thinking; I chose to call it a voice from God.

There are some major happenings at our place right now. I had to have a surgery about four weeks ago, but the story actually takes place the day before. My husband and I awoke around 7:30AM to a rainstorm. I rolled over casually thinking how nice the sound of the rain was and rolled over to see my husband awake, eyes wide, and with a distinct look of worry.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, suddenly panicking because the look was so intense. “The Sludge pump in the basement,” he said. And I was like “yeah, so?” and he answered quickly. “It’s starting up every four minutes; I’ve been timing it for awhile.” Me, being blond and somewhat oblivious to the meaning of what that meant asked, “So, is that bad?” “Yes,” he said, “I’m pretty sure it is.” He rolled suddenly and stood up. “I think I’d better check the basement.”

That sentiment sent a panic in me that is difficult to describe. I have to explain, I am an artist. My art workroom is in my basement. I work mostly on paper, and I have several hundred mats, papers, original works, wood frames all in my basement in several different drawers, cartons, containers, etc. Some are sitting on the floor.

The panic came from an experience in year two after the home we built had a sludge pump failure and we experienced water in our basement. There was approximately 4-6 inches of water in our basement. My new carpet, my cabinets, our paneling, my work, several boxes that we still had unopened, and assorted magazines, papers, etc. all became victims of the flood. The thought of another flood of that proportion panicked me as well.

This was the day before my scheduled surgery to correct a hernia in my lower left groin area. I rolled gingerly out of bed, wincing as I got up and slipped on some shoes to make the trek to the basement. I threw on a light sweater to shield the chill of the cool basement.

As my feet hit the floor of the basement I went immediately into my art room and breathed a sigh of relief…no water. I went into the large main area of our unfinished basement to see my husband walking the perimeter and sizing up the situation. “Looks like everything’s ok…there’s a little bit of water over here coming up through a crack, but that’s all. I’m going to keep an eye on it for awhile.” The sound of the sludge pump again starting up seemed loud and ominous to me.

I breathed a sigh of relief though. Once it gets the OK from the hubster, we’re as good as gold. Then hubster (my nickname for my husband Larry) uttered menacingly, “That was less than three minutes.” I could tell from his expression that it was like he was experiencing birth contractions! I went back upstairs to put on some clothes, knowing the skimpy pajama material was no match for the coolness of the basement.

I returned downstairs about fifteen minutes later to find my husband with a large squeegee mop pushing water to the drain area in our basement. “Yeah, it’s coming in fast now,” he said and I stood amazed to see that from the time I had gone upstairs and had come back downstairs I could see water literally pouring through an area close to our basement door that led to the backyard. I looked around to see that along the walls towards the north wall of our house water was coming in rapidly and covering the floor.

I asked what I could do and Larry said to move the water toward the drain that the gravity would move the water towards the drain. I stood with squeegee in hand pushing water as quickly as I could toward the drainage area approximately 15 to 20 feet from where I was standing and on the opposite side of the floor. Water was coming up over the tops of my shoes. It had been only 25 minutes since we first checked to see a dry basement with one little area that oozed water through a small crack.

“How can this be happening again?” I asked and my perplexed hubster looked at me as if to say, “Don’t ask stupid questions woman because I don’t know!” I asked where our shop vac was because I was certain it would be of some use. My husband’s face registered a “DOH!” which of course I loved because it was obvious it never even crossed his mind. But there truly was a reason. We had had a garage sale and had put the shop vac in the sale. We hadn’t needed it in a long time, and we had put it into the sale. We had it for about $10 dollars. A couple of people looked at it but passed it by. Now I know God was sitting up there doing an Obiwan Kenobi, “You don’t need a shop vac. You can go to buy a new one for just a little more.” And of course the person in reply, “I don’t need a shop vac, I can go to buy a new one for just a little more.”

I actually thought about that as the hubster bounded up the steps thanking me and telling me how smart I was and how I do come in handy from time to time. I am documenting his comments here so I can once again revel in them for awhile at a later time. Those moments happen so infrequently!

After four hours we finally got the situation under control. In that four hours there was much cursing…him and me, much crying…only me that I know of…and a lot of pain, by both of us for having to move so quickly and me due to the pain I already had been experiencing due to the hernia. “I think we’re finally ahead of it, and I think the rain is slowing down.”

Let me say at this point, yes it was a heavy rain, but not one that was like a hurricane force type at all. It was just steady, and solid, and very wet.

“I’m going to find someone online to come and look at it and give us an estimate on maybe digging up around the house and seeing what’s going on. This should NOT have happened,” the hubster was serenely angry, not at me, thank goodness but at the absurdity and hopelessness that we had felt such a short time before.

He sent an email to company about an hour away and within fifteen minutes we got a callback. Cuomo and Sons out of El Paso, IL (about an hour and fifteen minute drive from here) was going to come and give us an estimate within two to three days.

Vic (the owner) came out and did a walk around with my husband; they talked awhile, discussed the manly art of perimeter tile and what the possible problems might have been. Discussion of clogged drainage and possible perimeter tile failure was in the forefront of the conversation.

A deal was reached and plans made that included taking out my landscaping in the front yard, a sidewalk on the north side of the house and digging up to expose the entire perimeter tile around the house. I was thrilled…Ok…imagine a very sarcastic face when I typed that!

So large equipment and a team of young men converged upon my house one beautiful early fall day. The first piece of business…let’s take out the trees in the landscaping in the front. My beautiful Chinese Maple that I had adored and cared for since we moved into our home 101/2 years ago was unceremoniously taken down along with a large poodle tree (so named because of the round poodle like extensions like those found on a poodle). And a small tree that had tried to die several times and I nursed back to health through pruning and caring for…all decimated within moments. I was saddened to tears, again.

Digging commenced in the back and the search was on for a round pvc pipe that supposedly ran diagonally from where an alcove (that had filled to a height of approximately five to six inches of water) that we have on the back of the house and which was to have run at a forty-five degree angle to join up with a long green five inch pvc pipe that went from the back south corner of our home and ran approximately seventy five to one hundred feet down an incline into a gully behind our home.

My husband, while at work, was calling every hour or so for updates on whether the elusive green pipe was found. It was central to carrying water away from our home. I was in the kitchen fixing myself a glass of juice when one of the workmen (Adam) came up the steps from the basement and said, “Mrs. Benson, do you have a camera? I think you need to grab it and come and take some pictures.” I stood dumbfounded for a moment trying to, number one grasp that he’d come into my house and I hadn’t even heard him, but then realizing what he had said I replied, “Did you find something?”

His face was full of an excitement and alarm. “You’re not going to believe what we found.” I grabbed the camera and headed down the stairs behind him. “We’ve been digging back here by the Southwest corner (My art room) and there’s no footing under the back corner, and the perimeter tile actually ends four foot before the end of the house and it’s been cut off and just ends without being capped or without being connected to anything to drain the water away from the house. There’s also a huge hole under the back corner, big enough for me to get my body into it. It has no footing at all under the back corner.” I stood there and tried to grasp what he was saying.

He jumped down into the hole that they had dug and started pointing and talking and I was absolutely in a daze. I was looking at a long rectangular piece of plastic with holes in the side, and it just abruptly ended. He got down on his back and said, “Look at this!” Adam put his arm into a huge open gaping hole under my house and then moved his body under the edge of the concrete wall and just laid there. “I’ve NEVER seen anything like this in all the houses I’ve ever worked on.” He said.

I was snapping photos on my digital camera as quickly as I could. At this point I should remind you that I was one week out from having had my surgery. My daughter, Shawna, had flown home from Los Angeles to help me out for a few days. I went back into the house and grabbed a video camera and asked her to help videotape while Adam explained what they had found. Adam was very obliging and volunteered to go through the whole explanation again for the video.

Work continued on the perimeter. Not only had the subcontractor failed to finish off that corner, it was found that there was not even ONE connection going away from the perimeter tile and going away from the house. They also discovered that the tile had collapsed on itself from the weight of the clay. There had not been enough pea gravel and sand used so all the slits in the perimeter tile were encased in the clay that surround my home.

A week went by and still no diagonal pipe was found going away from the alcove area, but the long green pipe that went down my hillside was totally uncovered. And then we found another wonderfully disturbing problem. The green pipe stopped almost two feet from my house. In other words, it went nowhere. It was not connected to anything; it just lay under clay and was not draining anything anywhere. The end closest to my home was caked with the clay, again, two feet from where the perimeter tile that it was to connect to way laying. Four inch holes were found in a couple of places. These holes were evidently supposed to be either capped or were supposed to have pipes connected to them that would then lead the water from the perimeter tile out away from my home. Ultimately now that everything has been unearthed we have discovered that there is not even ONE connection going away from my home from the perimeter tile. All we have is a large amount of collapsed perimeter tile that obviously has never done the job it was intended to do.

The first weekend after the discovery of the four foot discrepancy in the perimeter tile and the lack of concrete footing on the corner of my art room, my husband decided to call the builder and ask him to come out and take a look at the situation. He obliged and even brought his brother. They walked the exterior of our home with my husband and after surveying the findings announced it was no big deal, they did that kind of thing all the time and never had a complaint before. Seemed to work well everywhere else, and they couldn’t figure why we would have such a problem. Of course this was also before we discovered that there were no connections in any of the places where they were supposed to be. They basically washed their hands of it and left.

We stood in the yard and just looked at each other. “I spoke with one of my people at work. It turns out her husband is an attorney and he knows a real estate attorney. They asked how long we have lived here. I told them that we were going on eleven years in a couple of months. The statute of limitations is ten years. We can’t do anything about it in court. We’re going to have to pay for all of this ourselves.”

I was dumfounded. I couldn’t believe that with the negligence we’d discovered that this could possibly be true. Of course, as I said, this was before we discovered the total extent of the negligence.

The gentleman that is working on correcting the problem just keeps telling us that in all his years of working on homes, and he says it’s over thirty years, he has NEVER seen such shoddy work done so blatantly. He feels that one thing that may have happened is that they may have been prepared to make the connections, but the guy who came to do the backfill may have beat them to it and then decided it would be too much trouble to dig it back up and after all, who cares.

We have had another severe problem since we moved into our home. Insects! Hundreds of them were somehow getting into our basement. The situation was SO bad, in fact, that we decided against finishing off the basement because we couldn’t get rid of them. We bug bombed, we caulked, we plugged holes and still somehow they would infest our basement. Fortunately the majority stayed there although spiders seem to run rampant throughout the house. Now we understand why we are having so many problems.

We are still at least two to three weeks from the work being finished. The more they work, the more they find. We are past being surprised by anything they find.

SO as I said originally, everything must happen for a reason. I’m trying to be positive about this, however it’s extremely difficult. In our case, the rain happened so we could find the problem, the Cuomo Company needed to keep their men working, and we needed to find out just who we can or cannot trust. Ok, that’s a pretty simplistic way of looking at it, but we have no answers to why this would happen. Although we DO have a theory as to why this happened to us at this time. We have a vacation coming up at the end of the month. Everyone knows the worst problems you’re going to have always come when you’re planning something good. I’m reminding myself that the vacation will be even sweeter than we had ever hoped!

I don’t think we’ll be building again!

Jennie Pearl-Part 3

“Maybe In Another Year””

And maybe in another year.

You’ll come back to cheer me.

And when, I mean and if you do, I will give my love to you.

And on that day we’ll laugh, and cry, and we will close our eyes

To the hate of the world and the evil that looks our way

And in the end what is the answer

Will you love the other, or me,

And in the end what is the answer will there be another year for me?”

I don’t know how many times I sat and tried to imagine my conversation with Jennie. I was afraid of scaring her and appearing like a stalker with the enthusiasm I had been inundated with. I imagined how I would try to ease into the conversation. I thought of the different scenarios of how to back peddle if I seemed to be making her ill at ease. I don’t think I could have been any more nervous than if I’d been interview John McCain or Barack Obama!

The night finally came for the dinner. We had chosen a local fish house called “Jonah’s” and we had decided we would eat in their “Oyster Bar.” I worried over what to wear, what my first words to her would be and then checked my makeup one more time to make sure my mascara wouldn’t run because when I become excited I tend to ooze sweat and oil and I didn’t want to terrify her either! My husband went out to the car and backed it out of the garage onto the driveway. I walked around the car and was about to put my purse into the back seat when Jennie came out of her front door. My stomach tied itself into one more knot. She was so pretty and looked so happy. I think I mumbled something about hoping I was “casual” enough for the oyster bar and we laughed lightheartedly. My heart was beating in my eardrums now and we sat together in the back seat of the car.

I told her how I’d been looking forward to our night out together. I decided to wait until we were actually at dinner before I’d spring all the questions on her about her music. Alan came to over to the car and got in and we were off for Jonah’s.

We had a pretty private table in the back of the very busy restaurant. Alan remarked how surprised he was because he’d been there before during the week and it was always so quiet. I secretly rejoiced in the noise of the other patrons knowing that no one would really overhear our conversation.

Again I worried about how to begin. We ordered and just before they brought our drinks, I dove in. “Jennie, I have something to admit to you and I’m so afraid of embarrassing myself or you.” She looked at me quizzically and I continued. “Jennie I am one of your newest and biggest fans.” She looked at me still with the questioning look and suddenly I saw recognition in her face and eyes. “You are?” she asked and smiled. I explained to her how I had read the articles, seen the photo, and lastly how I had heard her song. I told her how deeply that sweet song had touched me and from what I’d read, had touched so many other people as well. “Really?” she said.

She was honestly touched, but there was more in that “really?” It was honest disbelief, realization, and the sudden impact of the reality all at once. I asked about how the song came to be. She explained that when she was with the Peoria Anthology Folk Group, they had decided to make an album. She had picked out a song, but was told because of royalties that it would be too expensive for her to sing it. They told her she should write her own song for the album. She smiled and said, “I just went off into a corner, sat down and came up with it in just a few minutes.”

I sat there with my mouth wide open. She had just come up with it. Gosh I’ll bet all the song writers would love to say that. She didn’t slave over it, in fact she thought it was too simple. It was decided they would use a piano instead of a guitar, and the song was born. I told her how I was amazed at one so young could come up with such a complex melody, and how it was such a heartbreaking little song. Alan had told me he thought it had something to do with her father having left her family while she was still young. So I had this lovely romantic image of this young girl pouring her heart out to her father in song. I said this to Jenny and she smiled. “No it had nothing to do with my dad, I just made it up.” I was in shock for a moment. “Really? Wow”…I was speechless for a moment.

Jennie commented on how surprised she had been when she’d gotten the call from the New York Times Reporter. He asked her if she was Jennie Hayes and had she been Jennie Pearl from Peoria who had recorded a song with the Peoria singing group and she answered yes. He said it was a little disconcerting to hear the grown up voice from someone he’d come to know and admire from the recording. Jennie was fifteen when she recorded the song. He had asked her if she’d known she been being sought for for a long time and that she indeed, had quite a following. Jennie said that she had been speechless when he told her that. She had not known the song had been picked out from all the songs across the USA to be included on the “Wayfaring Stranger:Ladies From The Canyon” CD. She hadn’t known that royalties had been sitting unclaimed for her for the sales of the CD. And then she told me that her favorite part had been that it put her back in touch with an old friend, Chuck Perrin. This is where I was certain I was going to be perceived as a stalker!

I admitted to Jennie that I had been in touch with Chuck and that he was wanting me to help convince her to again return to singing and that he wanted to return to Peoria for a reunion of the PAFG. Jenny smiled and even laughed. She thought it would be a wonderful idea, but she no longer sang. And so I sat closer to the table, looked directly into her eyes and said, “Jenny, why did you stop singing?” Her answer stunned me! TO BE CONTINUED!!!

Jennie Pearl-Peoria’s Lost Sweetheart

Part I Finding Jennie Pearl

I live next door to a legend. That may seem to be an overstatement, but it’s true. There once was a young girl named Jennie Pearl who, when she was the tender age of fourteen or fifteen back in the late sixties, developed a love of music and playing piano and guitar. This sweet innocent child became friends with a few people of like minds and together they created the Peoria Folk Anthology Group.

This story all came about by accident, which is the usual way great stories start. One day our electricity was out and I went next door to the Hayes residence to ask if their electricity was out as well wondering if was a neighborhood problem or a personal house problem. Jennie answered the door and in the background I could hear the sounds of a man singing loudly. It wasn’t the greatest of voices, but a pleasant one and I smiled hearing this candid neighbor moment. I asked about the electricity to which Jennie replied yes, theirs was out as well and then turned to leave but pivoted to tell Jennie, “I sing a lot myself and if you and your hubby would like to do Karaoke sometime, just let me know.” Jennie’s face took a sudden strange turn. In fact, enough to set me on the path home quickly. It wasn’t a smile, or frown, it was just like she had escaped to another place. Frankly, I worried that perhaps I had offended her with my offer of cheap entertainment.

I really didn’t know Jennie and Alan very well. They’d moved into the home next to ours the previous year, and we would smile and wave to each other with occasional comments about the neighborhood deer and raccoons that run rampant in our yards. I’d wanted to strike up a friendship with her. Jennie always reminds me a bit of Lee Remick, yes the actress from Hitchcock thrillers and movies of the sixties and seventies. Except Jennie seemed more fragile, prettier, and a lot more shy than a Lee Remick.

Fast forward approximately two weeks. In this two weeks, however, I had thought many times about the strange look on Jennie’s face and had worried many times throughout those days about having offended her. I was in the throws of yet another Midwest Garage Sale and working in the garage quite a bit. On one of these days, Jennie’s husband Alan came home and I happened to see him pull in and waved hello. On my driveway was a cloth covered guitar case, an extra one I’d owned and had decided to part with. Alan came across and headed directly towards it. “Are you selling a guitar?” he asked in a very excited voice. I explained that no it was only the case and then the story of Jennie began. “I’m looking for a guitar for Jennie. I just found out she used to play guitar. In fact, Jennie is well known, and neither of us knew anything about it.” Well, this of course, piqued my interest immediately for two reasons. I had played guitar for a LONG time and the fact there was another musician on my street thrilled my soul! “In fact,” he continued, “one of Jennie’s songs is on a CD. We just found out about it. She’s even getting royalty checks for it. Guess people have been trying to find her. Some guy from the New York Times called her while she was at work and scared her to death. Have ya got a minute? Let me run home, I put together something for her that I want to show you.”

Alan’s eye were afire with excitement and pride as he strode quickly across my yard over through his garage and into the sweet little brick home he and Jennie have made. I was left standing helplessly in a bit of shock on my driveway, not knowing if I should go inside, or wait where I stood. I decided to wait where I stood and it was a good thing because Alan emerged quickly with a huge framed object about three feet long in his hand.

“When we got the first letter from the guy from the “Times” I decided to look Jennie’s name up online and I found several people had done reviews on her song.”

He had handed me the large frame and I looked in disbelief at the letterhead from the New York Times reporter’s letter which said things like, “We’ve been looking for you everywhere. You have a large following of fans. Wonderful to have spoken to you.” And, there were a couple of other pieces of paper which were actually the downloaded comments that Alan had printed off. Here’s an excerpt from one:

Salon.com – March 14th 2006
Numero Group’s latest, “Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies From the Canyon,” compiles one track each from 14 of the probably thousands of obscure she-folkies who sprouted up in the early ’70s, trailing in the wake of the grand pooh-bah of she-folkies herself, Joni Mitchell. If it seems odd to bother compiling the work of transparently derivative artists, it’s worth considering that if a scholar were to sift through the compositions of the legions of stylistically similar but patently inferior composers who labored under the shadow of, say, Mozart, he or she would certainly turn up a large number of gems — for even middling artists often have one concentrated burst of inspiration in them, the products of which would be lost forever in a sea of mediocrity were it not for intrepid curators like the Numero Group, who have rescued some pretty astonishing specimens and presented them on this wonderful release. My favorite is the haunting, heartbroken “Maybe in Another Year,” which has a piano introduction that sounds like the work of a child trying to copy Mitchell’s flowing piano style — which, indeed, it is, this being one of two songs ever recorded by 15-year-old Jennie Pearl.

I know there was more, but I honestly couldn’t grasp it all. I’d love to see it again to really look at what he had shown me.

I’ve sung and played guitar since I was sixteen years old. My life revolved around communities about 60 miles west of Peoria in my younger years and then encompassed the Peoria area during the 80’s, 90’s and even now. I explained this to Alan and told him how much I’d love to just get together with Jennie and talk about her experiences and share a bit of music. Then Alan handed me a CD.

“This is the CD I told you about. It’s called “Ladies From The Canyon.””

I took it from his shaking hands. He was shaking with excitement and the elation he was feeling from sharing this amazing story about his wife. “I didn’t even know she could sing, or play guitar!” he said as I walked over to a boom box I had in my garage. “I found out by accident. We went to a wedding of one of her relatives and they asked Jennie to sing. I was sitting on the ground level and Jennie was in the balcony. And then she started singing and I was in shock. I didn’t know she could sing so well.” Obviously the shaking was contagious. I gingerly took the disc from the CD case and put it on the player. Alan was talking, something about the track numbers. I was in Euphoria. It was as if I had held the Holy Grail myself as I pushed play. And then this lovely piano began to play and a voice as innocent and gentle as I have ever heard came wafting through my speakers. I was immediately hypnotized and in awe. The melody was haunting, and the sound of a very young girl, who must have been very wise beyond her years poured out her soul in the simplest terms, but one that clutched my heart with it’s power.

I know I must have been standing there with my mouth open as I listened in awe. And even when it ended I didn’t know what to say. Truly there were no words to express what I’d heard. I handed the CD back to Alan and we shared a brief “Yeah I know” moment before he turned with the three foot frame and the CD and began to leave. “You know, I really want her to start singing again. She needs to do it for herself. I don’t know why she stopped.” I told him I would try to get into a conversation with her at the earliest convenience and see how she felt about it. Alan nodded and returned home while I stood standing in my driveway, totally spent. I remember the feeling of floating. Like I’d been witness to something absolutely ethereal and even Holy! But this was only the beginning of my journey into learning about my neighbor, the lovely, the haunting and haunted Jennie Pearl. TO BE CONTINUED!

Family Reunion 101

Sorry to be gone all day yesterday. We had family reunion. Yes, it is it’s own kind of hell. Our family has moved from the large park with the lakes and rolling countryside to a small park in the hometown of the organizers of the event. Don’t get me wrong, that’s fair. They’ve been working on it every year for several years, so if they want it in their own hometown, that’s cool. It’s a small city park with a few swings for kids, a pavilion to keep the rain off, a woman’s bathroom with two stools…one taller, one shorter…no stalls just two stools, and one sink where a lone bottle of hand cleaner stands. The paper towels are just that…a roll of paper towels. It’s quaint when you think about it and it’s not too dirty. The concrete floor was swept before our arrival. You can tell because of the pattern’s left from the broom. There were also the vinyl Tablecloths, some Christmas and Easter, that covered the many picnic tables. The biggest challenge came from the “Swat as many flies you can before they lift off the food and carry it away” game. We’ve been going for years but I swear I have NEVER seen the quantity or the voraciousness of flies like we saw yesterday. Someone brought a large fan which they put at the end of the tables thinking the heavy breeze would blow the flies off. Not these flies! These aberrations of nature, while small, seemed to defy the laws of what their little wings should be capable of! Imagine one of those scenes from Hurricane Katrina, without the rain, where the reporter is standing in the Wind Tunnel of nature just trying to stay upright while reporting the strength of the wind. So was our trip down the smorgasbord of food at the reunion! It got to be pretty funny actually. I stood alone fighting the intrepid hoard for awhile, plastic plate in hand and waving furiously at the onslaught of flies.

Now for our scientific portion of our blog:The Midwest has seen it’s share of large rains and flooding over the past few months. Due to the vast amounts of water, we lost many farm animals, wildlife and assorted things that crawl all over central Illinois. Hence the large influx of little wiggly things that turned into massive quantities of Flies. Then those little flies flew off, landed on other things, made more little flies and then winged their way to the Carter Family Reunion in Abingdon, IL. Ain’t nature amazing?

Anyway, now on to the reunion itself. Family came from Texas, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois for the reunion. That made it sound huge didn’t it? Well it was a nice turnout, perhaps thirty people if I could count them while they were being blown away at the lunch line. It looked a bit like a scene from a three stooges movie. Plastic plates in hand moving down the line with their hair blowing straight back in the breeze, swatting at flies and trying to keep their plates level as they traversed the potato salads, the fried chicken and the jello’s. Plates were upended into the belly’s of some as they thought it best to put salad on their plates first, not knowing that the lack of weight would indeed go against their aim of getting to the baked beans and that they would be wearing ranch dressing down the front of their white shirts. Moving on to the seating arrangements. These wonderful families who chose to come all the way to Abingdon, Illinois to see all these relations they haven’t seen or even met, sat together with their own families away from all the people they came to see. And with that might I add that the people who see each other every day or at least regularly chose to sit together as well. Me, I haven’t seen some of my family for awhile, decided to sit at a table in the center of things. I fixed a spot for my hubby and I and walked away from the table to run the gauntlet of food and flies. I returned to find that one of my uncles, God Love Him (family phrase and I think his official name now), had chosen to sit at the table with us. That was fine.

This uncle was severely injured in an auto accident in the 1970’s. My favorite male cousin was killed in the impact between a semi tractor trailer and a midsize car that strayed across the center line during a thick fog. Unkie had a severe brain injury and I sat in intensive care for days mourning the loss of my cousin and worrying about my uncle. I felt my cousin would have wanted me to watch over my uncle so I took the duty seriously. Even when he appeared wide awake he would speak of heaven and hundreds of thousands of men and women standing around the thrown of God. Now this was very disturbing to me as my uncle was NOT a religious man at all at this time, and his words were both inspirational and scary as hell to a 19 year old!

ANYWAY back to the reunion, so this uncle is the one across from me, he doesn’t still talk nonsense, but he’s not ever been the same. He uses a cane now, has cancer, has the shakes, sometimes bathes and drools. So this was my lunch date. I always hug and treat him like I used to before the accident. It’s my duty to my cousin you see. But here he sat across from me in his white t-shirt with assorted things tumbling down his large belly that didn’t make it all the way to his mouth. Then as he reached for his large glass of Coke with ice, tipped it over directly into the path of my plate. It was a Kodak moment. He couldn’t move, I was in shock and couldn’t move and my hubby, who had since sat down beside me, looked at me as if to say, “so you gonna get up and get something to clean this up or what.” So I bounded up from the picnic table and grabbed the only thing I could find…paper thin paper napkins, by the hands full because, of course, the glass was full to the brim! After several trips back and forth to the paper napkin pile, which by the way were being held down by weighty stuff to prevent being blown away by the Wind Tunnel, I cleaned up the table. Unkie was mortified of course, and I felt so terrible for him.

The highlight of the reunion was a spirited game of Bocce Ball and a few people who decided to play “Hit the ball over the fence and land on peoples cars” Game. There were also those amazing moments when we all gathered in front of a video from 1989 that showed everybody that isn’t with us anymore and the people who haven’t bothered to come to the reunion since then. There were tears. Why do we put ourselves through this regiment year after year? I think there are several reasons actually. 1. We like to let people know we’re still alive. 2.We like to brag on everything in our lives to our family! 3.We miss that sense of family that we constantly try to recapture. 4.We go to see who else will show up. and 5. LOTS of REALLY good food, even though this years was covered in Flies.

I’d like to have a nickle for every time someone said, “Oh don’t worry…they can’t eat all of it! They’ll save some for us…or don’t think where those flies were before they flew in here and landed on Aunt Eleanor’s Chicken and Noodles! I won’t be going to as many when I move to California. We talked about that on the way home, along with how sad it was to see how much things have changed. When we were kids the reunions were HUGE and no we didn’t know half the people who came, but we recognized them year after year and looked forward to seeing those same faces. What I’d give to be able to go back to that woman that I was in 1989 and kick her in the ass and tell her to go up to every one of the people there and tell them how much they’ve meant to her. Even the one’s who’s names she still didn’t know when she was 37 years old! For that I am ashamed now cause they’re all gone. All gone except for a video from 1989 that showed us what Family truly meant one August day in the Park.

The Carter Family Reunion
The Carter Family Reunion

Why Sweetnote?

So, some people have been wanting to know where the name “Sweetnote” comes from. Is this something I just picked out of a hat or what? Well yes and no. I have sung semi-pro for too many years to tell you or you’ll think I’m too old to do this. When I used to sing back in the OLD DAYS hubby put a CB radio in our car and invested in a home base unit, a great mic, a large antenna and the redneck regalia that goes with all that. This was WAY before anyone had cellphones.

Cellphones were something that you’d see in a James Bond movie or some futuristic SciFi flick. I’d talk to him from the time I left home till I reached where I was going and from the time I left till I got home. Everyone had a “Handle” (name that one would be known by in code just like an online moniker). Hubby decided to call me Sweetnote because of my singing…well…actually it was my idea, but it’s always such a sweeter story if I say he came up with it! And then we got to know a BUNCH of truck drivers on my route and they dubbed me “the Singing Beaver”…..oh yeah…I know…it was cute, kind of dirty but I loved it. Used it when we used to talk “skip”….look it up! ANYWAY….I’ve used Sweetnote as my alias for over 20 years. Yes I’m only 30…LOL! Hubby was Blue Goose or Bowhunter, my daughters were TaterChip and TaterTot.

That was another lifetime ago. And when I stopped all the traveling and singing and CBing I still loved the name. When I went online, I decided to resurrect it. Now I still sing, but only on Singsnap.com and yes you’ll find me under the name Sweetnote. And yes, I’m a ham, always have been always will be. I fronted several bands and I haven’t met a stranger in years. It’s served me well. So I remain Sweetnote…and being from Illinois I decided to use a double entendre and say SweetNotes from the Midwest. Clever huh? So now you know all about me, well all I’m willing to share for now anyway! You can also find me on Twitter with the name Sweetnote! Thanks again for stopping by! Catch ya on the flip….that’s CB talk for See ya later!

It Ain’t Ozzy & Harriet!


Oh God! I’ve done it! I’ve been wanting to have a “Serious” Blog for awhile but haven’t been sure just what I could add to the Millions of blogs online and why on earth would anything I’d have to say be of any interest to anyone outside of my immediate family? I’ve been approached by several people on Twitter and told that perhaps my ramblings might be of greater interest if they were put into Blog form. So here I am, undertaking the next phase of my ever changing, ever wonderful life. I won’t bore you with a lot of my past, but there are some things I will share with you just for the sake of making a point on whatever topic I may choose to discuss on any given day.

I’m over 45, ok..over 55 and YES that is me in the photo. The biggest joke of my life is truly that photo. Everyone assumes from the photo that I am a real GlamGal, but in reality the blond behind the glasses is just a midwest housewife, married 37 years to a wonderful guy who grew up in a farm family. The blond has two beautiful and amazing daughters who live and work in/near Los Angeles.

You can check out my eldest daughter at www.shoutingintothewind.com. She is not only a computer genius, she is an accomplished writer/blogger/and wine connosieur. My younger daughter works for a new production company in LA and is on the fast track to fame and fortune and becoming a producer herself. Both daughters have been successful writers, and both daughters are single and live together in LA. Both born on the same day three years apart! I tell you this because part of what happens with me is directly in response to what happens to them.

I thought at this stage of my life I would be settling down into my hubby’s retirement plans and sitting in a big easy chair rocking grandchildren to sleep. But that was before the reality of life took over and my daughters announced they had bigger plans than staying in the Midwest and becoming housewives tied to home and children!

They moved away from home, over six years ago, with one living in Chicago and one living in Orlando. The one in Chicago went to college in Chicago to eventually go to work in the entertainment industry, while the other went to work for the largest amusement park company in the world. When my youngest daughter came home one day and announced she would be looking for work in LA it was a day that changed our lives forever. In less than four months, she moved got work and took up residence. About a year later, the eldest daughter announced she was ready for a big change and that she would be working on a transfer to California. I’m pretty certain the world began spinning faster and faster after that. Sometime later I’ll tell stories about the nightmares I’ve had about my two beautiful daughters living and working in Los Angeles. It’s been over six years now. They aren’t moving back. Their lives have gone through some amazing transformations over the past few years. Some things we’ll talk about and other things will remain private for their sakes and for their security.

I’m pretty sure the shock of their “MOM” having a blog will take a bit for them to get used to. It’s going to take awhile for me to get used to as well. I’ve not made this kind of committment in a long time, but I truly feel I have information for those women who have hit the age of 50 and older and perhaps feel they’re caught between being one of the Desperate Housewives or maybe Jamie Lee Curtis or Betty White. I want to try out some products that are made especially for us “Mature” women and report my personal findings. I want to discuss a bit about current events including the movies, politics, religion, weight, sex, fashion, movie/tv stars and all those other things we’ve been told we shouldn’t discuss if we want to get along with each other in this world. I want to have some contests with some great great prizes. I want to report on great Free or almost Free Stuff you can find and great websites for us over 50.

I want to talk about some of the amazing women that I’ve had the great fortune meeting here on the internet and give you a look into what has made them the successful women they are today. I want to focus on women who really didn’t start having a life until they hit the age of 50. I want you to read what I have to say, get inspired and go out and start your own business, build your own website, start your own blogs or whatever will take you from that place you are in your life today and help you become the woman you never imagined you would be at any time and especially after you’ve reached an age over 50.

I guess that’s enough information about what this things going to be about. I plan on posting every day I can. If you have a website with products geared towards women over 50, please feel free to contact me with information, samples, prizes or whatever! I’m talking ANYTHING that you would like to promote to we women of great worth! If you are available for interviews I’d love to talk to you! I am hoping to do a podcast somewhere down the line and post those on this site. If you are 50, almost 50, dating someone over 50 and have anything you would like for me to investigate, discuss or try out, please feel free to email me as well.

Thanks for stopping by for your first, and hopefully not your last visit! We’ll all get through this together!