What’s Your Favorite Comfort Song

Sometimes the hits just keep coming. I’m not here to share the stories of others, so let me say that the past few days have been full of unexpected illnesses, complex surgeries, and sudden deaths among my friends and family. That can be hard on an empath, even one with boundaries.

Swamps comfort me. Something about new life and decay, I guess.

One death has hit me particularly hard, since it was of a special friend with whom I had a weird and complex relationship since I was 14. I hadn’t heard from him except on Facebook posts for a couple of months, then, wow, I’ll never hear from him again.

We were fellow singers, and spent a lot of time talking about music, since we both did choral music (that’s how we met in high school). Sometimes when I was a mess, he’d call and sing me “Country Roads” or something like that. Everyone needs good friends, and it’s hard to lose one.

I’ve found music to really help me when I’m mourning a loss, and today, in honor of my friend’s habit of sharing music with others, I’ll share my favorite song of all time.

Oddly enough, this song was on two of the first record albums I ever got, at around age 14, as a matter of fact. Once I heard “You’ve Got a Friend,” I felt heard, like I actually HAD a friend. I’ve sung this song many, many times, and it comforts me. Honestly, when I really think about my life goals, it’s always been to be a good friend (and why I get so sad when I lose one to my own human failings).

And, the first “favorite song” I ever had is STILL my favorite comfort song. That’s almost 50 years of comfort.

I’m not much of a YouTube linker, but if you ever want to hear what music has comforted me in my life, there aren’t many. You can look them up yourself.

  • You Can Close Your Eyes (James Taylor)
  • Drive All Night (Bruce Springsteen)
  • The Chorale movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
  • The Long Black Veil, Chieftains version

Yep, that’s about it. What comforts you? Music, images, books? Do tell. I could use it. I’ll miss my friend. Luckily people live on in our hearts. And remember, you’ve got a friend.

Exciting New Uses for Tongs and Other Items

This morning, I was emptying the dishwasher of items used in last night’s holiday meal. I kept picking up tongs. Tongs and more tongs.

Hmm. Tongs.

I’m a person who never uses tongs. I’m not sure why. I just use other kitchen tools. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally bought tongs. So, how did we get EIGHT pairs of tongs?

Tongs for every possible tonging need.

Anita and I were baffled. With such an extensive collection, we could do so much! We could open a store called “Just Tongs.” When my cousin, Jan, called she suggested a Tong Monster Halloween costume. Hmm.

You could play a game where you try to grab people’s heads with tongs.

My best idea, though, was to form a tong band. With so many sizes and materials, you can get a lot of sound out of the tongs, I think. And they are easy to use as a rhythm instrument.

You could poke an eye out!

The pictures here are me trying out the bass tong and the baritone. They made a cheerful sound! I need to get a couple of other people to help me out and create a composition for tong orchestra.

Another Creative Use

So, at Christmas I gave Lee a lovely silver box with turquoise stones on it, which I found in Utah. He seemed to like it. I had thought he could store some of his nice pens in there, but naturally, he has a set pen storage system that no gift can interfere with.

That’s Lee looking pleased.

Meanwhile, Kathleen gave him a series of joke gifts to help him deal with the woman in the next office (her). There was aspirin, a funny calendar, etc. Lee realized that one of her gifts could be beautifully stored in the silver box.

Yep. That’s hemorrhoid cream.

So, whenever Kathleen is a pain in his butt, he can reach into the silver box on his desk and find relief.

We are quite a creative family, huh?

Did you experience any gift creativity at your COVID Christmas celebrations?

Musical Mysteries: Sounds in the Head

Talking Appliances

This morning, Lee and I were chatting about the things that make noise in our bedroom. The main “culprit” is our beautiful ceiling fan. In the last year or so it’s started making noises. And often it sounds like it’s “talking.”

The fan in question. This was taken 4 years ago. We have art and furniture now.

It says things like “wilderness wilderness” and “this is Fred this is Fred” and “harmony bound harmony bound” – all depending on how it’s creaking on a particular day. It’s endlessly entertaining while drinking our morning coffee, but can be annoying if you’re trying to get to sleep.

I got to wondering, do other people have talking machines? I can remember making up words to the windshield wipers and turn signals in past cars. And I know people with LG appliances have made up words to the songs they play at the end of a cycle (the company even has a web page about their songs!), but the fan actually talks. A mystery.

LG LG TROMM FRONT LOAD STEAM WASHING MACHINE IN RED - Discount ...
I couldn’t find a photo of my washing machine, but it looks somewhat like this.

My guess (and hey, I used to be a linguist, so it may even be an educated guess) is that our brains prefer to organize sounds into things that are familiar, and the rhythms of the fan sound like speech rhythms, so the brain sticks words in there.

I didn’t find any research on this topic. On the other hand…

Wormy Head

The other great musical mystery is inside my head. It has to be the most deeply embedded earworm in the history of my brain. I have had the song “It’s My Life” by Billy Joel playing for many months (at least since January, since I mentioned it in this blog post). I vaguely remember when it started commenting to someone that the new song in my head wasn’t even one I particularly liked. I guess the Billy Joel in my brain took offense, because he is now omnipresent. Different parts of the song are playing at different times, which is a break.

When I went to learn more about earworms (the name of which is a calque of a German word, Ohrwurm) I was relieved to Learn we all get them.

According to research by James Kellaris, 98% of individuals experience earworms. Women and men experience the phenomenon equally often, but earworms tend to last longer for women and irritate them more.

Wikipedia

Yes, I am an irritated woman. The Googles gave me these five ideas to block and earworm. I’ve tried them repeatedly:

Here are five strategies, backed by science.

  1. LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE SONG. Earworms tend to be small fragments of music that repeat over and over (often a song’s refrain or chorus). …
  2. LISTEN TO A “CURE TUNE.” …
  3. DISTRACT YOURSELF WITH SOMETHING ELSE. …
  4. CHEW GUM. …
  5. LEAVE IT ALONE.
These do NOT work for stopping earworms. I laughed when I saw the description of this image is “a lot of lying earplugs.” That’s right, LIARS! Photo by @kinek00 via Twenty20

The NPR article I read said that 90% of people get earworms at least once a week. I’ve come to really like it when some OTHER song shows up for a while! Sadly, “I never said I was a victim of circumstance” usually returns pretty quickly. It looks like I may be in for a long cycle. Harriet Brown, the author of the Scientific American article I read that lists lots of ways to get rid of an earworm concludes the article by admitting she has had one for over 30 years and now views it as “the soundtrack for my life.”

Make it go away! Photo by @vivivisuals via Twenty20

Um, I hope I don’t end up like the person who had the longest documented earworm, the murderer Jean Harris.

Music to My Ears

Throw me an easy one, UU Lent! I could blog for hours about music. Luckily I’m visiting relatives and don’t have hours. I keep getting distracted by wildlife, anyway (another post). Music has always been important to me (as for many of us).

I sang my whole life, mostly choral music, which I took to the second I learned what harmony was. Harmonizing with others brings harmony to my soul, and I guess it’s proven scientifically that it’s good for you, too. The years I spent rehearsing in my folk/rock trio, Trey Bone, were wonderful years. My friends Bill and Austin and I sounded so good together and really learned a lot as we put together songs to sing.

Back when I could sing. Eddie Collins, Austin Kessler, me and Bill Dower.

What makes me happiest, though, is that my children inherited my love of musical performance. I never could learn to play an an instrument, but both of them are experts. The one who doesn’t talk to me is an amazing mandolin player and takes his instrument everywhere.

Today’s Instagram about Declan and music.

And Declan can play so many things. I am so thrilled to see him playing stand-up bass in Big Dallas, but I’ve also enjoyed his guitar, bass, keyboards, and drum playing in other bands.

Both kids were in marching band in high school, and long-time friendships came from that. I firmly believe that learning music in school makes you a good thinker.

The markings on these shards look like music. All found off Swansboro.

While I lost my voice singing too much first soprano in a fancy choir, I still sing when I’m alone. I keep hoping my broken notes will come back. But music will always be there for me, and I hope it’s that way for you, too. It’s helpful at this time, because it can take us to other places in our minds.

Just be ready, though, I will cry hard if you play the Ode to Joy singing in the 9th Symphony of Beethoven. Tears of joy.

How are you doing? Stay in touch!

Gut Feelings, Not the Indigestion Kind

Okay, am I the only one who occasionally wakes up with a feeling that something isn’t right, but you don’t know what it is? That’s me today. I woke up with some kind of dread in the pit of my stomach, like something had gone wrong, somewhere, with someone I care about. My innards are just fine. I just have vague worries and concerns that I can’t pinpoint. Oy.

But, WHY do I have a bad feeling?

I asked a bunch of people if they were all right, then I got to worrying that it was my step-mother, so I ordered her Christmas flowers. Interesting path to guilthood there! Who knows, maybe I should call (except that phoning is this introvert’s biggest nightmare).

There’s no reason to feel this way, at least no conscious reason. I got good news today at work, got some things done, and supported a friend. Nothing bad there! But still, there the feeling is. Sitting on my psyche and squishing it.

The bright side: I checked in on people! People like that. If something’s going on with YOU, let me know. Until them I will keep randomly messaging people to be sure they’re okay.

What I’ll Not Do

Continue reading “Gut Feelings, Not the Indigestion Kind”

Sweet Sounds: Guitar Delivery

The guitar’s green-stained tiger maple and white inlay look even better in good light.

I shared how much fun Lee and I had driving through North Carolina on a quest to get my son a pedal steel guitar.

This weekend, Declan and his girlfriend, Rylie, made a quick trip to the Hermits’ Rest to pick the instrument up. This was an exciting day. I sure had hoped he’d like it (and be able to play it).

Lots of pegs for lots of strings.

Declan plays with a few Austin-area bands that tour around the country every few months. Check out Mountebank and Sherry if you want to hear more. These bands are young, energetic, and full of actual talent!

He also has his own project, Big Destiny. Once we realized he was going to be good, we helped by getting him a few guitars and some lessons, but mostly he’s learned by virtue of hard work and practice. (He plays lead guitar, bass, keyboards, and various percussion instruments.)

We are aware that you can get more work if you play an instrument that isn’t played by a lot of people, so we were all for getting him a pedal steel when he expressed an interest two years ago. Folks around Austin are always looking for someone who’s good with a pedal steel. Now he just has to learn how to bend those notes and use all the extra strings.

I think he looks very happy here. Also, both my sons have their dad’s eyes. Really obvious here.

So, the young people arrived, and Declan and Lee got to unpacking the instrument, while Ryle recorded it on the phone (she’s doing music too, and is a very gifted artist). 

Everyone oohed and aahed over the colors and workmanship of the Hudson guitar. Even more fun was that it was still in tune, and Declan could coax some sounds out of it, even using a glass as a slide.

This is a little tune Declan played after he first got his pedal steel home. The start of many good things to come?

Once Declan and Rylie got home and the instrument was properly set up, Declan sent us a little clip of some lovely music. I can’t wait to see what else he does with it, and hop some of it is paying work!