I was singing ‘O Solo Mio’ again

O Solo Mio. For some reason, my family used to sporadically break out in that opening operatic line. We thought it meant “oh lonely me.” Sometimes we went on to sing “O Solo You-o,” which is of course not the correct words. They’re “Sta ‘nfronte a te.” In fact, we had the whole thing wrong. The song lyric is actually “O sole mio,” loosely translated as “my sunshine,” about how with the sun shining on her, the singer’s lover is more beautiful than ever. It’s an 1898 Neapolitan love song, which my parents probably heard sung by Mario Lanza back in the 1940s, and I have heard sung by Luciano Pavarotti, The Three Tenors, and others. But we got it wrong.

Did you know the same tune was used with different lyrics for two popular songs, “There’s No Tomorrow,” recorded by Dean Martin, and “It’s Now or Never,” recorded by Elvis Presley? I’ll bet you’ve got it in your head now.

At our house, “O Solo Mio” was probably sung with sarcasm in the same way my mom said, “Oh, pobrecito,” poor little thing,  or sometimes the Portuguese version, “pobrezinho,” when we kids complained. I grew up with a lot of sarcasm. But that’s between me and my shrink.

“O Solo Mio” ran through my head yesterday when I found myself alone at the South Beach community center, pacing its polished wood floor and sighing over the chairs in which no one was sitting. I threw a jam session and no one came. Story of my life. Luckily, I know how to amuse myself. I pulled out my guitar and played and sang, enjoying the fabulous acoustics. Then I played my mandolin, wishing I had memorized more than one whole song. I sounded wonderful. Who’s to say I didn’t?

The usual hosts of our monthly open mic/jam were on vacation. They gave me the key. Such power. We would do more folk and country and less rock under my watch. We would avoid songs I never learned by artists I never heard of because I stopped listening to the latest popular music in about 1980.

The day finally came. I stayed dressed in my church clothes, touched up my makeup and let myself into the magic kingdom of music.

Nobody came. I gave them an hour. I played and sang and played some more. Cars came and went, but the occupants crossed the street to tour the shops at Aquarium Village or to eat at Fishtails Cafe. A little after 4:00, I went home, walked the dog and went back to watching “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” on Netflix (silly story, marvelous singing and dancing).

The South Beach community center was the place where I held a book launch in 2012 to which only one person came. That was for Childless by Marriage (many copies still available). I went all out with food, decorations, and stacks of my books for people to buy. I arranged rows of chairs for the audience.

Show time came. I sat alone in a folding chair and practiced what I would say. One middle-aged woman wandered in. I sat with her in the front row and recited my speech. She bought a book—how could she not? And then I was alone again, packing up my books and food, putting away the chairs and tables, and walking lonely down those stairs.

After years of officiating at activities for writers and musicians, I have learned that it’s difficult to get people out of their houses and into your event. They have other things to do. They don’t want to deal with the weather in winter or tourist traffic in summer. They think I could go to this thing or I could stay home in my comfy clothes and watch Netflix, take a nap, or get the laundry done. Now that Covid is ramping up again, won’t most of us opt to stay home?

People are difficult to move. Like my dog Annie. Sometimes when she decides she doesn’t want to go where I’m trying to lead her, she sets her legs and refuses to budge. It’s like trying to move a building or a bus. People are like that, too, and you can’t put a harness on them.

As for the singers and pickers who didn’t come yesterday, no worries. It’s August, and the weather was glorious. Who wouldn’t rather be outside enjoying it? The South Beach open mic will happen again on Sept. 12, 3 to 5 p.m. at 3024 SE Ferry Slip Road. Come on down.  

Question of the day: What motivates you to leave the house for activities you are not required to attend? Fun? Food? Company? Someone urging you to go? Fear that if you don’t show up, you’ll get assigned a task you don’t want? What makes you say, “I think I’ll stay home”?

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Sue’s News of Podcasts, Posts, and Puzzled Pups

Dear friends,
I’m deep into revisions on a book, so I offer you a look at the newsletter I sent out over the weekend.

ONLINE:

I’ll be reading from my chapbook The Widow at the Piano Saturday, June 12, 4 p.m. PDT at The Poetry Box’s monthly event. Click here for info and zoom link.

I’ll be discussing childlessness and other topics with other childless authors over 50 at “Fireside Wisdom for Childless Elderwomen,” Sunday, June 20, noon PDT. Click here to register to listen live or receive the recording to listen to you at our convenience.  

I’m co-leading Willamette Writers’ Coast/Corvallis chapters’ open mic Monday, June 28, 6:30 p.m. PDT. Five minutes per reader. All genres welcome. You don’t have to be a member or live in Oregon to participate. And you don’t have to read if you don’t want to. Click here to register.New at the blogs:

Unleashed in Oregon.com: “Driveway Camping” and “A Memorial Day Memory”

Childless by Marriage: “10 Challenging Thoughts About Childlessness” and “The Choices That Lead Us to Childlessness”

MUST READ:

The Memoir Project: A thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life by Marion Roach Smith. Even if you’re not writing a memoir, the stories in this slender book are fantastic!

When Stars Rain Down by Angela Jackson-Brown. Best novel I have read in years. Have Kleenex handy.

LOOK!

A month ago, this area in South Beach, Oregon was wilderness, for 25 years part of our daily walk. Things are changing. Annie the dog says, “Hey! What happened?” 

 All the best,
Sue

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Dizzy Dog Returns to South Beach

Nothing like sleeping in your own bed (or near it) after a long stay in the hospital

Annie is home. On Friday, when I saw her pulling the vet worker along the sidewalk, I knew my old friend was too stubborn to die yet. She walks like a drunken sailor, leaning left. I have to walk with her, grabbing her “Help ‘em Up” harness whenever she starts to tilt. She falls a lot, runs into things. She has a bloody bedsore on her elbow and shaved patches here and there from IVs and blood tests. She spent a week with a catheter because she could not stand to pee, and that caused a urinary tract infection. But she’s home and getting stronger every day.

Vestibular Disease, a sort of doggy vertigo, knocked her flat on Christmas Day. (Read about it in the Dec. 28 post) She spent the next two weeks at the Willamette Veterinary Hospital in Corvallis, 55 miles from here. Due to COVID, I could not go inside with her. I could only sit in my car in the parking lot with all the other pet people. I finally got to see her last Wednesday after waiting five hours for the busy staff to bring her out for a socially distanced visit. I cried a lot that day. (Read more about that at my Childless by Marriage blog.)

As she barrels cockeyed toward the step down into the den, I race to catch her, reminding her that a only few days ago, she couldn’t stand, and walking was only a dream. Two weeks ago, she couldn’t eat, drink or urinate. But now she’s eating, drinking, taking her pills, doing her “business” and wanting to take our usual hikes.

Saturday, I took her out front, intending to walk maybe two houses down, but she led me two blocks to where Birch and 98th streets meet and refused to turn around when I insisted we had done enough. She took offense when I grabbed the handles of her harness and forced her away from her favorite mud puddles. “No,” I said. She stared at me as if to ask, “Why? And why can’t I just go out my doggy door into the big back yard by myself?” “Because you’ll fall and hurt yourself.” But I’ll be taking off the harness and opening the gate soon. Thank God.

She’s bored. Just like when I left her at the kennel while I traveled, she has returned more stubborn than ever and doesn’t want to follow my commands to sit, stay, or “leave it.” She no longer waits for me to say grace before meals. When I go to take her out, she inevitably parks herself on the backside of the door so I can’t open it without forcibly moving her out of the way. Then she shoots out the door so fast I can barely keep her from falling. Slow down, slow down, I say.

What lovely problems to have. For two weeks, constantly waiting for phone calls from the hospital, I didn’t know if Annie would survive. I kept waiting for a vet to tell me it was time to say goodbye. Now here she is sprawled on her pillow looking like . . . Annie. 

I have been sleeping on the sofa next to her bed so I can hear her when she gets up. I tried sleeping in my own bed the first night, but I worried too much. Without my hearing aids, I would be unaware of what was going on in the other room. Why not bring her bed into my room? Annie is more stubborn than I am. She wants to sleep where she wants to sleep. I don’t mind. With the fireplace going, it’s like we’re on a camping trip.

She’s not cured but well enough to want to do her usual stuff again. It’s a miracle. Most old dogs who get Vestibular Disease recover in a few days. If they don’t, well, it’s not good. Annie was in the hospital for two weeks, most of them not standing or walking at all. It was starting to look grim. Annie is old, 13 next month. I know she won’t live forever. But I have hope now that she will live long enough to give me more gray hairs. And joy. So much joy. 

The rest of the world is going batshit nuts, but today in the world of Annie and Sue, things are pretty good. Thank you, friends for all the well wishes and prayers. It truly means a lot.  

The Big Reveal at Unleashed in Oregon

Good morning. I have something to tell you. Better sit down for this.

Okay, (clears throat, takes a deep breath), I have another blog. That’s right, when I’m not here, I post elsewhere for a whole different family of readers at a blog called Childless by Marriage. How long has this been going on? Since 2007. Since our days at Blogger.com with its funky templates. Yes, I have been cheating on you. I even have a Childless by Marriage Facebook page, too. Gasp.

Why am I telling you now?

Unleashed PB coverBesides being completely devoid of ideas for Unleashed in Oregon today, I have been working night and day on a “best of” collection from the other blog, and I’m almost finished. The posts are gathered and edited, and I’m working on niggling details like links and type faces. I know, I know, I did a “best of” collection for Unleashed in Oregon a couple years ago. (Click here to buy a copy. Please.) It was a lot of work, and I swore I would never produce another book full of photographs.

The Childless by Marriage blog book does not have pictures, but whittling more than 700 posts and their anonymous comments down to approximately 300 pages . . . Mucho work.

The new book is tentatively titled Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both. The focus is on couples where one partner is unable or unwilling to have children. Sometimes they already have kids from another marriage. Sometimes they never wanted them. Sometimes they have fertility problems. That leaves the other partner having to decide whether to leave in the hope of finding a babymaking partner or accept that they will never have children. It’s a lot more common than you might think. One in five women reach menopause these days without having children. I’m one of them.

Childless by Marriage cover smallThe posts talk about why one’s partner might not want kids, whether to stay with them or leave in the hope of finding someone who does want children, dealing with the grief of never having children, coping with the clueless questions people ask about our lack of children and the equally clueless suggestions people offer, looking ahead to old age without children, and more. Think Ann Landers or Dear Sugar, except I ask the questions and readers provide the answers.

ACincrate2I don’t have a cover to show you yet. At first, I was going to use the puppy picture that has topped the blog for years, but readers say no, not right for the book, and I agree. Ideas are welcome, and if you are/know a great cover designer, let me know.

The blog accompanies an already-published book from 2012 titled Childless by Marriage. I’m thinking a new edition of that book might be in order. We’ll see.

So, I have been cheating on you with another blog and the book that has become my major COVID shutdown project. (I also cleaned out the garage.) I invite you to visit the Childless by Marriage blog and give it a read. I post there on Wednesdays. You might even want to order a copy of the Childless by Marriage book. Why not?

When it comes to books and blogs, I’m afraid I can’t be monogamous. So many ideas, so little time. Stay tuned to see what comes out of this computer next.

Thanks for reading. Question: Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to more babies or fewer? Why?

 

Robo-Guy Just Doesn’t Understand Me

I’m writing this while listening to “on hold” music that sounds like the record is stuck and somebody needs to move the needle. I try not to do non-writing business during my writing time, but if I wait until later to call my insurance company, I’ll lose my courage, so now, while we have sun and hail happening at the same time (craziest winter ever), I dial the 800 number and encounter Robo-Guy.

Now, Robo-Guy and I have a problem. He does not understand what I’m saying. I think I’m speaking English. I’m enunciating as hard as I can. And yet he doesn’t seem to get me. He keeps spitting out a list of choices, none of which apply to my situation. Specifically, I’m turning 65 on Thursday, I have gotten a pile of stuff in the mail from Medicare and Blue Shield and I don’t understand how the two insurances interact. Do I have a Blue Shield “supplement plan” plus Medicare or what? This is not on Robo-Guy’s list, the same list I saw online before I decided I would have to use the telephone.

Every time I start to mutter to myself, he stops and restarts his list. I must be silent unless I can say something that’s on the list. BUT IT’S NOT ON THE LIST.

I take a chance. I say “Medicare supplement.”

“Did you say benefits?”

“No.”

“My mistake.” He repeats the list.

I repeat “medicare supplement.”

He says, “Did you say benefits?”

Head slap. “Yes.” I’ll say anything that gets me to a human being.

So I get one. I immediately forget his name. Dennis? We’ll call him Dennis. I give could-be-Dennis my information. He puts me on hold. The line goes silent. Am I still connected? Oh! There he is. My plan does not show me having Part D. Part D? But he’s not the right guy, which I knew because I picked a “wrong” choice to get to a human. Would I like to be connected to the other guy? Yes.

Commence the loud hold music. I start to scribble because I am unable to sit and do nothing and the music cannot be listened to. Why is loud annoying music considered better than silence?

Oh! Dennis. He’s still working on it. Hold on.

Why not give us news, information, quizzes, gossip, the Beatles, anything but this noise? How about, this is brilliant, how about employing professional “hold chatters,” friendly people who will talk to you while you’re on hold. You could talk about anything: work, kids, recipes, the weather, frustration with your in-laws. Kind of like therapy. I think it’s a great idea, as long as they’re live people.

Hey! Dennis has delivered me to Erica, who actually makes jokes. She’s going to check which is my primary and which is my secondary insurance. She giggles. “Who’s on first, who’s on second?” She actually remembers the old comedy routine. I love Erica.

Now I’m back on hold. The music didn’t miss a beat. For anyone calling government, insurance or financial institutions, always use the bathroom first and come supplied with coffee, tea, or whiskey and something to do because it’s going to take a while.

Erica is back. I’m listed as a “PPO retiree.” Okay. Blue Shield is still my primary insurance and Medicare is secondary. Is that what it’s supposed to be? Shouldn’t it be flip-flopped with Medicare primary? Somebody who is older than me and understands this stuff, please explain in plain English?

Erica offers to transfer me to another person. I can’t take anymore. “Not today,” I say. I may be over-insured, but going into my birthday, at least I am covered. I am double-blessed with insurance from my late husband and from Uncle Sam. I know a lot of people struggle to have any kind of insurance at all. I am lucky to have had Blue Shield all these years via Fred. On my own, I’d be at the mercy of the Affordable Care Act, which our president wants to abolish.

I’m still thinking about Robo-Guy. Oddly, I feel guilty, like I screwed up our conversation. He wasn’t even real, but he sounded so real, so anxious to please yet so perplexed by what I was saying.

So, tell me about your Robo-Guy experiences. Does he have trouble understanding you, too?

***

I wasn’t going to write about my upcoming birthday anymore. So I’m turning 65. Get over it, right? Right. But let me close with two important reminders about the upcoming anniversary of my birth (Thursday, Thursday, Thursday).

1) Some of my local area friends are joining me for lunch at The Chalet in Newport on Thursday at noon. Contact me if you want to come, too, so we can get a big enough table. No presents or even cards are necessary. I’m still thinking I will end the day at The Drift Inn in Yachats, where the music begins at 6 p.m. Let me know if you want to join me there, too. In between, I might go for a long hike if the weather is decent. If not, maybe I’ll do a little antiquing.

2) The Great $6.50 Birthday Book Clearance Sale will continue through the month of March. You can buy copies of Shoes Full of Sand, Freelancing for Newspapers, Childless by Marriage and the original edition of Azorean Dreams for only $6.50 each, including shipping. That’s less than half price. The next two customers will also get a free copy of my limited edition chapbook The Dog Ate It, my gift to you. Do not go to Amazon for this sale. This is strictly between you and me and Paypal.

 

 

 

 

This is my kind of tea party

IMG_20150131_150700963[1]An ocean of hot tea, plates of itty-bitty sandwiches, sugar cookies shaped like teapots, and sorbet eaten with doll-sized spoons, plus books–what’s not to like? Saturday I was one of the guest authors at the annual Samaritan House tea in Newport Oregon. The tea raises funds to support our local homeless shelter. The ladies who organize it go all out, and it shows. The tables and walls were decorated with books and antique tea cups. The programs, thick with ribbons and more teacup images, included recipes and bookmarks to use on our next reading adventures. The beautifully crafted treats included cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, orange lavender polenta cakes, black olive and rainbow chard bars, and little teapot figures created with green grapes and frosting.

IMG_20150131_152111126[1]Held at First Presbyterian Church, the tea sells out early every year. Middle-aged and old ladies and young moms bringing their little girls jam the fellowship hall. They doll up in flouncy dresses and big hats decorated with feathers, flowers, and lace. It’s a scene right out of Great Gatsby–if it was cast with our friends and neighbors. The atmosphere is loud, giddy with too much sugar and caffeine, and generous. In addition to the tickets, the tea-goers bid on a silent auction, buy the books and teacups decorating their tables, and donate cash to the cause.

The theme varies. This year as part of “Tea and Tomes,” six authors were invited to display and sell their books and give brief talks about their work. We shared a table and swapped stories from our publishing adventures. It was fun getting to know each other and showing off our books. Besides me, the authors included: M.C. Arvanitis, author of middle grade and young adult fiction; Patsy Brookshire, author of the novels Threads and Scandal at the Willamina Quilt Show; Deborah Lincoln, author of the historical novel Agnes Canon’s War; Deborah H. Trusty, author of The Kid from Valsetz, a biography of former Newport city manager Don Davis; and Karleene Morrow, who wrote a novel titled Destiny and How to Write a Novel. Morrow passed away recently, but her friends brought her books and told her story.

Many of the people at the tea knew me only as the girl behind the piano at  Sacred Heart Church, which was where I had to go right after the tea, to play for the 5:30 Mass. They were surprised to see how many books I have published. I had five at the table, Childless by Marriage, Shoes Full of Sand, Stories Grandma Never Told, Azorean Dreams, and Freelancing for Newspapers. Info on all of them at http://www.suelick.com/Products.html.

For those who think I’m amazingly talented, I tripped over the microphone cord after my talk. I also dropped one of my little sandwiches face down on the carpet. Nobody’s perfect.

The photo above shows me on the right and my friend Pat Stern in her fancy hat.

Have a cup of tea and read a book. It feels good.

Coming Soon

 

Sue singing

Welcome to Unleashed in Oregon. This blog has actually been going since 2007 on another site. I am planning to move it here by Jan. 5. It will be more attractive and have lots more fun features. Meanwhile, you can read the existing blog at http://unleashedinoregon.blogspot.com or my other blogs, http://www.childlessbymarriage.blogspot.com and http://writeraid.net.

What is Unleashed in Oregon? It’s the site where I let loose my creative side with stories about my travels and my life as a Silicon Valley transplant living on the Oregon Coast. My dog Annie appears often. One of these days, she’s going to just shove me aside and write it herself.

I am a writer/musician and dog-mom. My recent books include Childless by Marriage, Shoes Full of Sand, and Stories Grandma Never Told. My “day job” is working as a music minister at Sacred Heart Church in Newport, Oregon. I sing, play the piano and guitar and lead the choirs, which is a lot like herding cats. And there’s Annie, the latest in a string of big yellow dogs. You’ll love her.

There’s a lot more about me that you can find out at http://writeraid.net/about.

What will I blog about next year? I don’t know yet, but I look forward to it, and I hope you do, too. I’ll be spending the next week decorating this site with all the headers, widgets, and links it needs. I generally post on Mondays, so see you on Jan. 5.

Happy holidays!

Sue Fagalde Lick