Thursday, September 29, 2016

               I sometimes wonder if it is hard to be my friend. I sometimes wonder how some of the people I meet have any friends. I often envy people who seem to have tons of friends. I wonder if you have a close-knit family if you really need friends. When I’m in crisis, I ask myself, “Who can I trust with this?” That usually tells me the depth of my friendships. BrenĂ© Brown, researcher and best-selling author, says that people have to earn our friendships. I like that. Some of my friends have proven repeatedly that they will be there for me to cheer me on and to pick me up and dust me off. I want to be that kind of friend; the one that cheers you on and dusts you off. I believe I do that most of the time, but I am not perfect;

sometimes I forget or I get busy and I’m not there like I should be. My own mother was always too busy, so I know how that feels.

        We were out with friends for dinner last night, and my friend introduced us to a friend of theirs who “talks non-stop.” I have acquaintances who do that. I cannot be their friends. I cannot listen that much. I’ve tried, and I find that I get hostile after the first 20 minute monologue. This is not friendship. People like this reduce me to “audience,” and they aren’t even paid performers. How do such people have friends? Are they different with others than they are with me? Am I different with different people? Maybe so.

     Maybe this is a confidence/ego thing. When I am out with people who I believe to be “equal,” I am relaxed and totally myself. When I’m around people who talk a lot or who posture and brag, I sometimes find myself intimidated or defensive. I’m still the same “me” I was with the other friends, but I’m more guarded, and I am tense and uncomfortable. I no longer frequent these people. It’s too much work and no fun, so I have given up being polite and accepted fewer friends and enjoyed more laughter and “oh, yeah”s. Mr. Wonderful and I have decided that being too polite might be enabling such people to continue boring and intimidating others. He says, “Just interrupt, interject and take the floor.” I say, “Why should I have to be forced into Trump behavior when I’m a respectful, kind person. I won’t give these bullies any more power than they have selfishly taken.

      A dear friend of mine told me the other day that she feels lonely since I have moved and that she misses me. I miss her too. Our phone conversation only took seconds to feel the emotional bond that we share. We can talk honestly about feelings and disappointments because we trust each other, and we know the other one truly cares. We have earned each other’s trust, and it is a wonderful thing. I treasure the friends who fall into this category. Those friends are precious jewels whose presence in my heart boosts my confidence, makes me feel safe and loved and whose humility humbles me. 

     Are you that kind of friend? Are you too sometimes too polite and find yourself exhausted after encounters with certain people? Have you earned the trust of your friends by being there for them? You don’t have to be there to be there. 

     Thank you, my wonderful friends. I love you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

     What a strange and amazing few days I’ve had. It’s funny how nothing goes on for a while, and then suddenly all kinds of things happen at once.

     In the past few days, a friend’s 96-year-old mother fell and broke a second hip. Another friend called tonight to tell me he is being honored as “Man of the Year” in his organization.  My daughter was on television being interviewed about the dangers of social media apps, and my other daughter called to say she had just tried acupuncture for the first time. 

     Reading my face book posts, I came upon an exceptionally long one that began with the notice in all caps DEEP BREATH. This was from a former student who was relating the tragic news about his ten-year-old son’s diagnosis with a crippling disease that currently has no cure. With his post, he included a u-tube video narrated by the son explaining the complicated disease. He spoke about his diagnosis with humor and even included video clips from the Internet. Oh, my. I almost lost it watching him. Such courage and poise for a little kid. 

     Another friend called this morning to say that she misses me, and that finding connections like we have is difficult. I said, “Yes, I get that,” as I have just moved to a new state where I knew only three people, so I know that it can be lonely when your close friends are not there to share things. 

    Mr. Wonderful called to ask directions to our first class in the Lifelong Learning Academy we are attending here. By happenstance, the Director answered the phone. They spoke about our experience and passion for lifelong learning, and she will meet us for lunch next week to talk about how we can volunteer for her program. This is just what we’re looking for. If we had just put the address in the GPS, we would never have connected with her.

    Funny how our lives can change in a moment. Not always ha ha funny, though, and it reminds me of how fragile life is, and how we must embrace every painless, stress-free moment. 

     I looked down at my fingers today, and I saw that they are getting more and more crooked. They aren’t stiff or sore, but I know something’s going on that is not good. I am therefore realizing that my practicing must continue if I am to perform one more of my one-woman shows. As Robin Williams said in his famous Dead Poet’s Society, “carpe diem.” 

     Such banal phrases like “You can’t take it with you,” “live it up while you can,” may be banal, but they are true. Do you remember how one day you felt great, and the next day you were flat on your back with the flu? Bad stuff comes from nowhere, and sometimes we can’t prevent it. What we can prevent is regret that we didn’t enjoy the good stuff when we were able. I’m going to get a cookie and practice my scales. How about you?


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An elderly gentleman’s home was robbed. They took the cherished watch given to him by his father. A dear friend’s 96-year-old mother fell and broke her hip, the second one in less than three months. Random mass shootings kill innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Young kids use social media to send hate messages. Parents scramble to stay ahead of the app game. Homeless vets sleep on sidewalks, and big banks rob us blind. Presidential candidates interrupt, yell, harass and lie before our eyes. How do we stay positive and optimistic in such a world? 

I have lived through the prosperous years of the fifties when vets came home and counted their blessings. They watched their children play kick the can in the streets and hide and seek in the backyard. They saved money and gave their kids savings bonds for Christmas. They dressed up as Santa Claus and hid Easter eggs to provide magic and joy for their families. “I Love Lucy” and “The Honeymooners” made us laugh. I was never afraid.

I got married in the sixties when racial tension was growing and pot was no longer something to cook in. I watched great men dare to lead and risk their lives for the good of their people. I saw them gunned down: Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy. I drank Cold Duck and decorated with candles stuck in empty wine bottles. I traveled to Europe and learned to taste food from gardens and savor history and culture. I hitch-hiked in Switzerland and walked the streets of Paris late at night with new friends whose lives were very different than mine. I was never afraid.

In the seventies, I was raising children and working on my Masters degree. I taught part-time at a university in downtown Detroit where I walked to my car alone and drove home in the dark. We gave dinner parties where we talked about kids and music, our golf scores and Watergate. Women who worked had to juggle work and family. There were no medals for those who succeeded. Married life was juggling and trying to balance the fun and work. I was not afraid.

In the eighties, I divorced and found myself alone for the first time in my adult life. My support system was minuscule, and I had to learn to do many things I never imagined. I had to work four jobs to make ends meet, and I was faced with the fact that I could very well spend the rest of my life alone. I juggled jobs, children visits, dating and moving numerous times. I was finally forced to grow up. I learned how to get from one crisis to another, and I figured out what a real crisis was. I struggled, I cried, but I was not afraid.

In the nineties and early 2000s, I remarried and witnessed the college graduations of my two beautiful daughters. I celebrated their marriages and the births of their children. I traveled to Europe several more times, sometimes with students, sometimes with Mr. Wonderful and sometimes alone. I lost my mother and gained a step-mother. I held my daughter’s babies in my arms and marveled at the miracle of birth and innocence. I watched the housing market collapse, our portfolio shrink, our country attacked on our own soil. I was afraid for the first time.

In the past several years, I have grown increasingly fearful as mass shootings become the norm, greed continues to thrive, racism has resurfaced, and globalism informs us of all kinds of terror and horror throughout the world. I lost my beloved father to Alzheimers. Maybe we know too much. Maybe I should have been afraid all these years, and I was just too busy focusing on what was in front of me. 

Last night’s debate made me very afraid. I am afraid that anti-establishment anger has brought us to a point where some feel so powerless that we have to give up decency, decorum, pride and common sense to achieve the change necessary. When a potential role model personifies everything I taught my children never to do or say, I become very afraid. When interrupting and yelling and posturing in front of millions of people turns “cool,” I am very afraid. 

I know that fear will not solve problems or motivate positive action. I know that I must do something, but I’m not sure what, other than vote. The powerlessness is what breeds fear. I must take the fear, turn it into positive energy and focus on action. Where do I start? The only answer I have is:  the mirror.

Monday, September 26, 2016

     On this day, September 26, 1898, a musical icon was born. George Gershwin, beloved American composer and outstanding musician, graced the world with a talent never before heard or recorded. George Gershwin only lived 39 years, but during that time his prolific repertoire of musicals, pop songs, and classical masterpieces, such as Rhapsody in Blue, have entertained music lovers everywhere. 

     Kay Swift, (aka Sandra Moulin, “fifi, la folle”) will tell the story of their 10-year affair and perform his music. Sign up now for an advance preview of her one-woman show opening 2017 in Sarasota, Florida. Private party requests and out-of-state performance dates available by private message or on Gig 

     Add your name to the mailing list on


Sunday, September 25, 2016

                                                Names I’ve Already Been Called

     When you’re the new kid on the block, it’s interesting how people perceive you. We all have first impressions of people when we first meet them. How do you form a first impression? If you’re like most, you don’t even think about it; it just happens. You look at someone’s face, body type, smile, posture, clothing, and an impression emerges in your brain somewhere. Then the person speaks, and the impression is either enhanced or modified based on your own perspective. 

     Last night, Mr. Wonderful and I were invited to a large dinner gathering at a local restaurant. We had met about half of the guests (there were 24 of us), and we knew fairly well only the couple we brought who were the organizers. We love them. They are warm, friendly, humble and just beautiful people. When we approached the first of the two long tables, we said hello to those whom we had met last time. I remember the two pretty women who are about 20 years younger than me. I remember being impressed by their youth and attractiveness, and when they spoke, they became even more attractive, as they were humble, fun and very friendly. As we continued down the table, a man whom I had never met looked at me and said, “Hi, Daisy Mae!” I laughed and said, “Well, hello there.” At the end of the first table, we said hello to a couple with whom we had gone out previously and whom we liked a lot, and another couple who seemed older but nice. She had a very round face, and she was one of those people you feel like you already know and like.

     Fast forward to the end of the evening, after I had chatted with only a few people at our table, as I was at the end and couldn’t hear anyone further down. Mr. Wonderful was sitting to my right, and he was engaged in conversation most of the evening with his tennis friend next to him whom he liked a lot. His wife was sitting across from him, but it was hard to hear her from where I was. We did chat briefly, and I noticed how young she was and how pretty. She was friendly also, and I did eventually have a nice conversation with her. 

     At the end of the evening, I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t had a chance to meet more people. At that point, the round-faced lady came over and sat down next to me. She asked me all kinds of questions and we ended up hugging each other good-bye. I found out she was diabetic and had nearly lost her eyesight. (We never know what people have endured when we make those first impressions.) She saved the evening for me from the new friend perspective, but then a lady from the other end of the table approached me. She said, “You look just like a former colleague of mine.” I never know what that means. Was this colleague a dog? She couldn’t remember the woman’s name, and it was only relevant because I discovered that we were both former teachers from Michigan and only lived a few miles from one another. We both agreed that it was a shame we couldn’t have chatted but that we would be in touch. Her impression of me was obviously colored by her relationship with her former colleague, which speaks to my point about how our impressions can be mixed with people or experiences from our past. 

     At a luncheon last week, a woman whom I had met briefly at another function sat down next to me, and laughed when she called me “Sexpot.” Boy, we never know how we are impressing people. “Daisy Mae,” “Sexpot,” “Colleague.” Hmm. “Round face,” “attractive,” “humble.” We tend to label people in our memories for various reasons. Whatever other impressions I may have made, I hope the names I’m called at the next party are as funky. What names would people call you?

     On the way home with our friends, we talked about how most of these people are retired and many of them were “someones” in their past lives, but now that we’re all here, we don’t flaunt our titles or successes. No one cares. We’re all here to just enjoy ourselves and have a good time. This is a good thing, but I don’t completely agree that people’s pasts don’t go into that first impression. 

      When you move to a new state where many others have moved from other states, there are “impressions” we have based on where they lived. New York conjures up a certain profile in my mind based on my experiences with New Yorkers, and as I used to live in California, I have impressions and memories of people I met there that play into my reactions when I meet someone from let’s say San Diego or San Francisco. So what’s the point? Maybe others react to me the way I do to them. Maybe the Michigan image conjures up the Detroit ghetto or the U of M Wolverines. Maybe my blond hair and hobo blouse conjure up comic strips characters. Maybe the colleague looked like a sleeze or a move star. Who knows? It’s all so fascinating, n’est-ce pas?



Saturday, September 24, 2016

                                                QUEL EN EST LE BUT?

     Throughout the years of my teaching career, I started off the first day with the above mantra which translates:

      I would tell my students (in French) that if there was no point to what I was teaching them, that they didn’t have to listen. If a homework assignment didn’t serve a specific purpose, I would not assign any. If my lecture didn’t offer a particular skill or practical purpose, they didn’t have to take notes. Needless to say, this kept me on my toes as well as my students. I had to ask myself while planning lessons “What’s the point?” 

     Now that I have lived many years since retiring, I wish I could pass this message on to many people I meet who love to tell stories. Storytelling has been around since the loin cloth, but no one ever taught man how to deliver a good story. My point is that every story should have one. If not, it risks boring the hell out of the listener. As I always worry about boring people if I talk more than twelve seconds, I don’t tell stories very often. I do listen to stories everywhere I go, and I’m here to tell you, some storytellers are so boring, I want to tear my hair out. The worst storytellers are those who consume alcohol at the same time. It seems that the vodka-laced details become more superfluous and irritating as the story goes on and on and . . . . . 

      So what’s the point? The point is this:  If you’re going to tell a story, consider the purpose before you start. Consider the attention span of the listener. Add some humor. Take a breath. Leave at least ten minutes between each story and most importantly, consider asking a question of the listener in case he might want to relate an incident so that an actual conversation may emerge. If someone is telling a story, don’t highjack it and add boring details that prolong the listener’s agony. If you are telling a story, check the body language and facial expression of your listener. If his eyes are closing, he’s fidgeting in his chair or he’s looking at his watch, get a clue.

     So what’s the point? Stop boring me.

     Au contraire, there are some fabulous storytellers out there, and they are not famous. They may be your neighbors, your kids, your barbers. If you find yourself totally engaged, and better yet, laughing, listen to how they tell their stories. Take mental notes on their techniques, and practice them in your closet. To me, the people who I most enjoy are those who are interesting, interested and who are seeking a connection. 

     Does your storytelling invite a connection? If not, what’s the point of telling it?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dear Daddy:

I hope you are up there playing your guitar and entertaining the other angels. I know there have to be magnificent pianos up there too, so maybe you’ve got your own little clique and you play the piano while they sing along and harmonize. I miss harmonizing with you. I’ll never forget the last time we sang “Till We Meet Again” on the porch of the rehab facility, the sun shining on us as we rocked and shared our music.

The world has gone mad since you left; that is, if we choose to focus on that part of it. There are random mass shootings, there are political hate rallies, there are terrorist attacks that rob families of loved ones, and there continue to be wars all fought in the name of religion. No matter how I try to make sense of it, I can’t. It breaks my heart to feel so powerless, and I worry about my kids and my grand-children. The little ones never knew a world of hop scotch and Red Rover, of The Good Humor Man and double-feature movies. They only know I-pads and ear plugs. I am very proud, however, that both our girls have kept our little ones busy with music and sports so they learn the beauty of a melody and the joy of the team spirit.

I continue to marvel at the behavior of people. Some are so kind and selfless, I feel guilty looking in the mirror. Others are so self-focused, they see nothing but what’s in it for them. I suppose there have always been those in both categories, but I have always been fascinated by what makes people tick. Maybe that’s why I notice more than others. Yesterday, we were at a nice little lunch spot, and the man across from us kept staring at Mark. I was unaware of this until I heard Mark laughing while I was at the front counter paying the bill. He walked up with a napkin in his hand and a grin on his face. I said, “What?” He chuckled and said, “That man drew my portrait.” “What?” He explained that the man said nothing, just motioned for him to come to his table and handed him the napkin with Mark’s face drawn on it. I asked why the man drew him. He answered, “I have no idea.” People do the strangest things, but I thought that it was so sweet that this elderly gentleman found pleasure randomly drawing people at his lunch hangout. I noticed that his wife sat across from him and was admiring a plastic grocery bag from which he had obviously made a beautiful flower. 

It takes so little to put a smile on someone’s face. I imagine you are smiling a lot up there. Does the Big Guy get you all together and remind you of the Golden Rules, or do you all just follow them because you’re there? What do you do all day? Do you wear white robes? Are there golf courses up there? I can just picture you putting in your long white robe, your beautiful silver wavy hair blowing in the breeze. 

We have moved to your favorite place in the world, Florida. We love it here. The skies are exquisite painted with big white puffy clouds on a bright blue canvas. Weekly sunsets humble us, and warm, friendly people have embraced us and made this transition in our final years a wonderful experience. We are grateful to be enjoying good health as we ride our bikes in the morning dew and take multiple pictures watching the sky turn pink and lavender. We are blessed.

I miss you often, and I look forward to one day sitting next to you in my white robe harmonizing. Meanwhile, I choose to keep my focus on the good “Till We Meet Again.”