Why I love Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty has been such an inspiration to me in getting back to seriously working on making music. When I listen to him, his music sounds simple enough to reproduce. I thought, “I can play that.” One of the first songs of his I learned was ‘Runnin Down a Dream.’ I wasn’t scared of trying that song, or later, ‘You Wreck Me.’ Both were interesting and presented some challenge rhythmically or guitar-wise. I remember walking along the beach practicing counting out the beats. I love playing those songs, and others by the Heartbreakers.

I always say that Tom Petty essentially de-mystified rock for me. I like the way he presents his songs. He’s not a screamer or a ‘hard-rocker,’ and his face is usually fairly deadpan. He looks like he’s thinking about what he’s singing. I like that he models a strong leadership in the band, and even though he’s not a super flashy performer, he knows how to capture his audience and give them a great show. I saw him at one of the last stops on his 40th Anniversary tour in 2017. He died just a few weeks later. It was my first live concert of that magnitude in years. The outdoor amphitheater was packed, and everybody knew all of his songs. Lots of older parents my age were there with their adult kids. We were all shouting and singing along. Joe Walsh, who opened for the Heartbreakers that night, made an even bigger impression on me, and I became a huge fan.

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers & Joe Walsh at Xfinity Theatre

The Heartbreakers is kind of a model band for me: Drum, bass, rhythm and lead guitars, lead singer and back-up vocals. I decided about 5 years ago after Emilie asked me to play for an event at work that that’s what I wanted, too: to be the lead singer in a band, to make my own arrangements, and to have good musicians around me backing me up and making it happen. About a year after that event, I had found a bass player and a drummer and we’re still together, and getting better all the time.

Another thing I like about Tom Petty is that he could hold his own and take lead parts in the Travelin Wilburys, with guys like George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. He had this laid-back calm and friendly way about him and he’s not garrulous. When he speaks you listen. I’d like to be like that, too. I like that he stood up to the music industry and won, twice. He decided he wasn’t going to back down, and he wrote a song about that too.

I wouldn’t call him a great singer, or even a great guitar player. So he makes me feel like I have permission to get out there and do it, too. If he can, why can’t I? With Tom Petty, it’s more about heart, dedication and commitment to the craft. He just kept writing, and his band just kept performing. Their success was the product of consistent work.

This is the poster that hangs on my wall. Thanks, Tom. You’re still inspiring me, and I’m still singing your songs!

Last year I set about learning one of Chrissie Hynde’s songs, ‘Brass in Pocket,’ from a Youtube tutorial by Adrian (anyonecanplayguitar.co.uk). I also decided to learn ‘Just What I Needed,’ by The Cars. They’re both so much fun to play. The process of learning new fingering, new chords higher up on the neck, and putting vocals together with new rhythms was a challenge that seemed impossible. My fingers felt like wood. But I’ve seen that perseverance pays off: if I keep working on it, it gets easier and easier. And one day I’m amazed that I can play it with my eyes closed!

The prospect of a 68 year old woman (at that time) performing a song like Brass in Pocket was interesting to me. I

felt like it would be smashing some cultural norms about older women not having those kinds of feelings or desires.

Not true! I like being a spokesperson for women who feel they’ve lost some of their voice with the loss of youth.

I had to ask myself, “Can I actually sing this song , at my age??” And the answer was, “Yes! I can.” It’s a message that resonates: not being noticed, feeling invisible, wanting to be noticed; wanting to enjoy life, to feel empowered to ask for what I want, not just sexually, but in any other area. Wanting to be counted and recognized as important, valuable, and unique. Like Chrissie says in the song, “I’m special!”

A new thought that I’d like to try playing an electric guitar came to me one day around that time. Ian has one, so does Vicente. I told Vicente about it, and a week or so later he came over carrying a long hard skinny case. What is that?? ‘For you. It was my son’s first guitar and he doesn’t play it anymore.

I got my wish, but I haven’t played it yet. I’m still loving my Alvarez too much. The electric is under my couch, waiting. There’s a time for everything.

Choosing My Life, Part 2

I just reread Part 1 of this post, written in June, 2019. That was 2 years ago. It was a nice lookback, and I find myself wanting to reflect again on what I’m choosing these days.

I’m still in the garden. This is my 3rd year. I walk over almost every day, even when I can’t think of anything in particular that needs doing. Something always does. It’s summer, and harvest time, and my basket was too heavy to carry home yesterday. Potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers – all abundant, and heavy!

I chose a few years ago to tell everyone I know that I needed a job. And I got one: driving 3 wonderful kids to school and back, and here and there after school. I’ve seen them growing up, and now the eldest has his own car. The writing’s on the wall: my job is winding down. This summer, while they’re away at camp, I chose to answer an add on Craig’s list looking for musicians to play for the residents at a home for elderly with various stages of dementia. That little gig has turned into a bigger job that fits me perfectly and gives me a place to be creative and get paid for it. When I walk in the door, I feel like I’m joining friends. I miss it when I’m not there. My new boss is giving me freedom to create activities for them, and I have lots of ideas. She gave me the go-ahead to start a strength-training program which I do twice a week, and we have done gardening, dancing, a happy hour, nails and hair cutting, and a vision board along with the weekly singing. She’s happy to have found me, and I’m happy to have found her HOME.

I’m still meeting up with my ACOA step group, although we’ve gone virtual and meet on zoom now. It’s still a satisfying part of my week, and a safe place to talk about the challenges of being an adult child working through the process of reparenting my inner child. That looks like a life-long journey, and it’s never boring.

I’ve chosen to move my car insurance from Geico to Travelers, and found a local agent who I can call whenever I have a question. So much better. I love the upgrade, and I’ve made the choice to join the Intellidrive App program and have my driving monitored for the next 500 miles in order to reduce my premium. This is definitely a case of trying something new.

I decided to join Match.com during Covid to see if I could find anyone out there who wanted to get to know me. That was a novel and sudden inspiration. Now that Covid restrictions have lifted and most of us have been vaccinated, I’ve been hoping to find someone to meet for coffee, dinner, walks along the seaside, holding hands…It’s been over a year, and not a single bite by anyone I was interested in. I can say I’ve tried, and that’s something. I also know that I can trust the timing. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be. The point is, I’m not completely happy or fulfilled living alone. There is definitely something missing. Emilie is in Europe now, spending time with her Dad in Belgium, and traveling to France with her cousin’s family. Stories of her activities, and seeing pictures of Jean’s smiling face, I know being with her is a very special thing, and her absence will be felt strongly. She and her partner Alexi have decided to marry, another big choice that we are all feeling inspired and happy about. His parents are arriving at the end of this month to visit, and next year around this time all of both of our families will be gathering to witness and celebrate the union of two of our most precious people.

The next big question for Jean and I, and maybe for Alexi’s parents too: how do we want to spend our final years? What’s most important? What will bring us the most joy? And what can we give to our children while we’re still able? Choices need to be made. And they seem BIG and rather daunting. This is a new time in my life. I turned 70 this April, and starting a job working with very elderly has made me recognize my own aging. At first I was shocked. Wow! I’ve lost three inches in height, and I just noticed that my back has the beginnings of a hunch back like my mom’s. For the first time in my life I’m consciously working on my posture every day. My doctor told me I’ve crossed over from osteopenia to osteoporosis, another wakeup call, and I started lifting weights again, and walking up the 4 flights of stairs in my building a couple of times every day to strengthen my hips and my heart. It’s my intention to get stronger and more confident in my body, not just lie down and die 🙂 I’m sharing my program with those elderly residents at the HOME and that’s helping me too. It’s been nine weeks, and I’m checking off the boxes everyday: Walk, chair stands, toe stands, Arm and leg weights (increasing gradually), stairs, mat stretches, push-ups, and plank. I’m back to needing to take a look again at what I’m eating, and do a little tweaking there in the direction of more healthy. Step by step.

One of my band mates is 70 like me. It feels good to have a fellow from the 1951 club in my life. Most of my friends are either younger, or older. When he forgets something at practice, we laugh and give each other a look. Yes, I understand. Me too 🙂 The music is definitely my favorite way to have fun with other people. I’m getting better at relaxing and letting it all hang out, but it’s a challenge to give up that old need to be in control all the time. I’m choosing forgiving friends.

Many of my current choices revolve around doing what I can to insure I’m as fit and healthy as possible for the sake of the future. This is new. Youth usually doesn’t think that way. We tend to forget about aging until we arrive, and then it is often too late. I’m glad to be suddenly spending time with frail 87 and 93 year olds. They remind me of what I do and don’t want to be like when I get to where they are. I’m doing what I can. It is my intention to ask the universe both within and without to guide me. I’ll keep you posted, dearest.

Reflections on a Survey

It’s November 6, 2020, and as of 2:54pm we haven’t finished counting all the votes, and we still don’t know who has been elected president of the US.

Today I received a request from a European Unification Church member for a survey I’d worked on 7 years ago, and I’ve been looking through it again after all this time, only too happy to be diverted from the intense political situation going on. The survey asked only 2 questions: What inspires you about the Unification Church Sunday service, and what would you change if you could? These two questions get straight to the heart of the issue, and make it easy to gather people’s thoughts without putting them through a lengthy questionnaire. Three things strike me today as I revisit the results: the importance of small groups, making a contribution, and weathering times of transition. Let me elaborate.

I belong to a small group of women who have been going through the 12 steps of ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholic or Dysfunctional Families) together for the past 2+ years. There were 4 of us to start, now we are three.

Being part of a weekly small group dedicated to spiritual growth has been an important source of support and comfort to me. We are not all at the same stage of growth, or on the same side politically, nor do we all share a common faith. One of us is a Catholic turned Jew, one a Christian, one an agnostic, and I call myself a ‘seeker’ without any religious affiliation. One of us is a Trump supporter, two of us not. We come together week after week and share our experience, strength, and hope with each other without needing to judge or be polarized by our various forms of belief or disbelief. We all agree that life is for learning, as Joni Mitchell once said in a song.

Small groups work. They create intimacy and an opportunity to share safely when the participants all agree they are there to learn, not to proselytize, or to ‘educate.’

Making a contribution was a very important takeaway from the survey work for me. People tend to think the leader is responsible for making changes and seeing to it that everything works. But the responses showed that contribution makes people feel more ownership, connects them together, and multiplies creative energy.

One of my favorite responses summed it up: “There wasn’t much I liked about Sunday service at all. This inspired me to get involved and help develop a music ministry. That has developed into collaboration with the pastor to make the service more embracing, enchanting and inspiring.”  I happened to find myself in Bridgeport, CT a few years later attending the service that person had been a part of, and I saw the result he had talked about. The musical part of the program was alive, involved many different age groups, and touched the entire congregation.

In my case, I’ve been conscious ever since of being more proactive when I want to see change, rather than just adding an ineffective voice of complaint. That one response changed my participation in my own service in Belgium, and has remained as a way of life for me going forward. I joined the board of the co-op where I live when I felt my input would be beneficial to the building, and this year I joined Vote Forward and wrote 100 letters to voters in Texas and Florida encouraging them to get out and vote. Being active in the democratic process has helped me stay calm and focused, and sleep well at night.

We are currently in a time of transition. I am writing now a day later and the election results have come in. Joe Biden is our 46th president. I am celebrating along with many of us for whom these past 4 years have been filled with a sense of loss and disbelief. Grief over a way of life we felt we knew disappearing. However, there are 70 million people who are not celebrating with me, and I know how they feel. I suffered the same loss in 2016. Going forward none of us can fall back into a complacent life. So much has changed. Democracy takes work, and transition times challenge us to rethink and recreate ourselves and our institutions. When enough people lean in together, a tipping point is reached and change becomes inevitable.

I don’t know what our future democracy will look like, but I hope we don’t squander it, and that we learn to honor our differences with more civility and empathy. Learning to talk to each other when we disagree on just about everything is a good place to start. I am encouraged and moved by Dave Chappelle’s reminder to be a ‘humble winner,’ and by his ‘kindness conspiracy’ message on SNL. “It’s random acts of kindness for Black people. Do something nice for a Black person just because they’re Black, and you’ve got to make sure they don’t deserve it… they can’t deserve it, the same way all these years they did terrible things to Black people just because they’re Black and they didn’t deserve it.”

I’m feeling inspired.

GEORGE MARTIN and the Beatles

I just finished watching PRODUCED BY GEORGE MARTIN on Amazon Prime (https://amz.onl/6sL3NHD). What an amazing gift he gave us. In the form of so much beautiful music. As British singer Cilla said about him, he brought out the best in people because they didn’t feel scared by him. Mild-mannered, cool to the max, he had the musical knowledge and the ear to make suggestions in ways that could be heard and accepted by those egos who came into his studio. Especially after the Beatles. Everyone wanted a piece of George’s golden touch!

A wonderful book to start your George Martin journey is one he wrote in 1994 to tell the story of the ‘Summer of Love – The Making of Sgt Pepper.’ It’s a fascinating read that takes you into the EMI studio to see how the music was actually made. Quite the eye opener.

I never really thought about or understood what a producer’s role on an album is, or how important it is to the finished product. Did I say that George Martin is unquestionably the ‘Fifth Beatle?’ Without him I don’t think they would have gone on to do the incredible studio work they ended up doing. Thank you, Sir George!!!

Project 333- Part 2

It’s been a week. I feel better and look better. My closet is still overcluttered and full of stuff I haven’t sorted yet, but I’m creating outfits I like and wearing them and I’m excited about the change.

Last week I posted the first 3 outfits. If you haven’t already checked out her site about minimalist life-style, check out Project 333. Here are my next 3.

Outfit #4: Casual Corner

In this outfit I feel ready for a day around the house, or a quick check of the mailbox outside. Getting dressed for myself is a THING 🙂

Here it is on the actual body- looks different, right?- with or without the cotton/polyester/spandex blend zippered sweat shirt coat by Athletic (($5). I haven’t worn it because it’s winter white and I’m always afraid of getting it dirty. I couldn’t pass it up though because it was brand new, gorgeous, and fit me perfectly, so I’m going to keep trying to work it in. Practical is usually the best way to go, but…..beauty is always VERY tempting.

Outfit #5: Cargo pants, decorated

The Bass cargo pants ($6) are 88% polyester, 12% spandex. The blouse I bought years ago in Belgium has no label anymore, but it’s a cotton spandex blend. I have rarely worn it as it always feels too dressy, or sexy. It shows off my curves, which I’m always a little shy about. It was an inspiration to put it together with the cargo pants that I am crazy about and wear ALL the time because they are so light, and dry in a few hours after washing.

I’m challenging myself this year to feel free to look pretty! That means accept and not try to hide my body so much. This combo works because the work status of the pants balances the beauty of the shirt. Like wearing diamonds with jeans~ COOL!

Outfit #6: Feeling Pretty!

This dress and jacket ($10) grabbed my attention because of the fabric. Sadly all the labels are gone, because they were either scratchy or in this case I did some alterations which took them out. It’s a crunchy pleated shimmery polyester which never needs ironing and washes and dries in minutes. I love a beautiful pattern and I love the way I feel when I’m wearing it. I wore the sleeveless dress all summer last year, but it can also be dressed up for the evening with the short-sleeve jacket. I decided to wear the jacket backwards. It’s a huge upgrade that way, and goes from being a dorky dated outfit to a fresh glam look. It was inspired by a look Grace Vanderwaal rocked at Billboard’s Women in Music Awards. She’s someone worth checking out if you haven’t already. What an amazing voice!

333 Project ~ Wardrobe Challenge

If you are interested in decluttering your life while you have some extra time, the place to start might be your closet. I’m inspired to try. To get started, check out the link below.

Today I chose the first 3 outfits and photographed them. It’s a small step in an effort to simplify my wardrobe and choose 33 items to wear for the next 3 months. Let me show you what I have so far.

Outfit #1 – Spring into Comfort

This outfit is comfortable and very practical for cool spring days. The shirt is I.N.C. International Concepts, made of 95% rayon and 5% Spandex, which is why I bought it. Rayon is my ultimate favorite fabric. It’s so soft. The black and white sleeve embellishments add a pop of style that I decided was something I could use in a 3/4 length T. The pants are your basic Danskin yoga pants, and the sweater is acrylic which I usually avoid but I really liked the pattern and style. I just discovered today that it can be worn inside out. The leather flats, Trotters, were made in Brazil and cost $8 at Goodwill. I bought a second pair in cream-color. They were brand new. The total cost of this outfit was $19, and I have to say I feel great wearing it around the house, which is pretty much all I’m getting dressed for these days.

Outfit #2 ~ Time for Yoga

I joined a gym and started yoga classes 2 weeks before the Coronavirus blew up and everybody shut down here. I’ve got the outfit and the yoga mat and am making a relatively feeble attempt to get down on it once every few days. The clothes are versatile enough to wear to the grocery store or for a walk down to the Sound. The pants ($4) are made by Champion, and the shirt ($3) I have no idea as I cut the label out when I bought it. Hate that scratchy feeling! The shoes were new when I bought them at GW 2 years ago ($15). Made by Reebok and great for walking, treadmill or otherwise, they’ve put in some miles, but this will probably be their last season. I still never run. Btw, the faux leather suitcase was $8 at a GW in Asheville, NC, where I picked it up when I went to visit my sister a couple of years ago. It’s the perfect size for a carry-on, or an overnight bag to Emilie’s.

Outfit #3~ Feeling like a Lady

This is not a new dress. I’ve had it for a few years, but rarely wear it because I always think it’s too dressed-up for where I’m going. Not anymore. These days I’m putting it on for no other reason than I feel good in it. I always love seeing women in long dresses. It’s such a rare sight nowadays when most of us wear pants instead. I found the sweater by Mia and Tess ($3) and the color is pretty perfect. The dress was $6, at GW of course. The Jimmy Choo shoes, which are now about ready for the trash can, were a steal a couple years ago at $35. Already worn, they still had lots of life in them, and I have definitely worn them out since. I really really hate to part with them, they are a well-worn well-loved part of my daily life.

In conclusion for today~

I’ve been dressing up in front of a mirror since before I can remember. It’s what I do, and it’s always interesting to see what I can put together. The trouble has always been that I haven’t felt confident to take the pony out of the barn. That old expression, “You can dress her up but you can’t take her out,” comes to mind. I’m tired of living in the closet, and I’m challenging myself to wear what I like, and like what I wear. See the source of my inspiration this week at https://bemorewithless.com/project-333-challenge/.

Stay tuned for the next episode of ‘Feeling more comfortable in my own skin.’ Hope you’re doing OK, and that we don’t go back to normal before we’ve all had the chance to redefine how we do community, and what we really want. Wishing us all the best!