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Friday, May 31, 2013

A Natural Way To Help Wooden Things: A Review

I'll try anything.  Darn near.

Here's my review of this natural method to help wooden things:

Naturally Repair Wood With Vinegar and Canola Oil. So, for a super cheap, use 3/4 cup of oil, add 1/4 cup vinegar. white or apple cider vinegar, mix it in a jar, then rub it into the wood. You don’t need to wipe it off; the wood just soaks it in.

I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

First of all, tons of elbow grease.  (I ain't afraid of no elbow grease, Miss Scarlet!)

But I felt eerily like I was auditioning to be a second floor maid at Downton Abbey. Minus the hot uniform.

It's not hard on your hands, no gloves needed. All natural.  I would imagine the oil will help my skin.

I did 2 chairs, a banged-up side table, a curio cabinet and my dining room floor. That took 3 amounts of the oil and vinegar in the recipe. I used regular vegetable oil and white vinegar.

I bet you could squeeze a lemon or two into the mixture or lemon zest to make it smell less like a bad salad.

My dining room floor is badly gouged and scratched, mostly NO varnish or clear coat on it. The wood is dry and has water damage, so I think the oil will help it.

I normally use lemon oil for wood, love the smell, but unless you get the really good, expensive, pure stuff ---- you should wear gloves.

This does smell like a salad and my cleaning-nut-head GF's animals really enjoyed licking the excess off. it's safe, won't hurt them!

I grew up with my mom telling me wood needed oil at least once a year etc. I'm going to let it soak in overnight, as all the wood in the dining room desperately needed the moisture and then, tomorrow, I'll give it a clean with white vinegar dilute or Murphy's before I put the rug back down.

Bottom line: it would be helpful in terms of dry wood, and it won't hurt anything....but it won't make stuff look like new. NO way!

Just saying!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Songs I Wish I Never Knew

As a singer of many songs, there are LOTS of songs I love to sing.  Songs that never grow old. I have sung "Misty" (a huge hit for Johnny Mathis) probably a thousand times and it doesn't get old.   Neither does "As Time Goes By."  I love "Because Of You."  I get chills when I sing it. Etc. Etc.

And so on.

I am, thanks to the piano player I'm working with now, learning new standards.  Exciting and terrifying.

But there is only so much room in the hard drive of my brain to hold so much information.  I'm not trying to brag here, but I would guess-timate that I know 1,2000+ songs off the top of my head. Learning something new or difficult poses some interesting conundrums.  Thank god for 4x6 file cards with the words.

I'd like to empty out some of that cranial hard drive to make room for more songs, provided I could really learn them with assurance.  Memorization is getting a bit harder, but I persevere!

So.  Here are some songs I'd love to never sing again.

OR hear again.

OR think about again.  Ever.

(The caveat being that I had to have sung them in public on a paying gig.)

In no particular order:

"Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro.
Makes any respectable baby boomer cringe.
Horrible, dripping, oozing, depressing, pestilent piece of dreck.

"Satin Doll" should be played.
Never sung.
Especially by a woman.
Every vocal version sucks, Including mine.

Yes, really, I had to learn this. "Feelings....NOoooo-whoa-whoa....feelings."
God help me.

"Punky Pumpkin" 
Poor Rosemary Clooney.  In her "Patter Songs" years.
This make "Come On-A My House" look like "As Time Goes By."
A great singer singing a stupid patter song.
Kind of in the same family as "Teddy Bears' Picnic."  Except everyone over 65 or a Capt. Kangaroo watcher KNOWS that song.
I've done Punky Pumpkin twice now, at the behest of my piano player who cheerfully encourages the senior audiences by kindly saying, "You all remember this song!"  And none of them ever do.  Ever.  Two minutes of wasted musical space.  Blank faces.  Retire it.

I can now sing "Girl From Ipanema" but it's taken 20 years to get over it.

"Rag Mop"  "R./I say R.A,/ R.A.G/....R.A.G.G....RAGGMOPP, Ragmop," etc.
Make it stop.
My piano player loves it.  It was a big hit when he graduated.
Well, "American Pie" was a huge hit when I graduated.
Oh, wait.
I've sung that one too.
I absolutely (insert long string of swear words) HATE THAT STUPID SONG.
Make it stop.

"For All We Know."  
OK, I admit to loving many of the Carpenters songs.
They are a guilty pleasure.  Like Barry Manilow.
Admit it.  'Fess up.
You all have at least guilty musical pleasure.
This is their worst song and the Worst Wedding Song ever.  OH, wait...that would be....

"There Is Love" ("He is now to be among you at the calling of your hearts...")
Goes on record as the Worst Song I've ever had to SING AND PLAY.
Yes, folks, I used to play that on the guitar. A double Musical Low in Mia's Career!!

"If" by Bread.
Once a decade is about all I'm good for.

"Total Eclipse Of The Heart"
Man, what a personal, musical low point in my career. The sheer thought of having to sing that again makes me want to hurl. Dinner. Something sharp.
I'm sure Bonnie Tyler is probably a very nice lady, but what a crappy singer.

"Evergreen".  Yes, I know it won and Oscar for Best Song.  It wasn't a great year.  Obviously.
Plus to hold out those last 30-bars-on-one-breath and hit the notes right is not for the faint of heart.  Or smokers.

"The Pina Colada Song." You know the one.  "If you like pina coladas/and getting caught in the rain."  Thank god I only had to sing it once and somebody else had the words.

"Memory" from CATS.
I hear all you Broadway and Webber nuts. "How dare she slam that song? Sacrilege!"
Look, you always end up doing that damn song usually towards the END of a gig when you're butt-tired.
It starts in the stratosphere and never comes down.
It can go so wrong, so fast and make any decent singer look like a tuneless, amateur-ish hack in about 2 seconds.  You can go flatter than a triple-A bra in a nanosecond.
I always breathed a huge sigh of relief when I got through that endurance run with my dignity intact.

"All I Ask Of You." 
Please.  Don't ask me. See "Memory."  
Worst duet ever.
Oh, wait.  It's tie with:
"You Don't Bring Me Flowers."

"Tomorrow" from ANNIE.
Of all the good songs in that show (and there are a bunch), why is THAT the one everyone knows?
If I ever had to cast a kid in anything and they sang that for their audition, I'd show them them the door.  "See ya tomorrow when you've got a different song!"

"The Sound of Silence."
"Hello, darkness my old friend..."
Don't turn on the lights,  Please.
How that really made Number One for WEEKS is beyond me.  From the same folks that brought you "Feeling Groovy," which I think it a cute song.
I sang it once.  I needed a drink and at that time, I didn't drink.

There are others.  I bet you can think of some yourself, especially all your performers out there!

But, Number One, with a bullet.
The worst of the worst.
The Lowest of the Low.
The True Toilet Bottom of my 30+ years as a professional singer.
Yes, I had to do it.  Numerous times.
When my old band leader (who never wanted you to look at the words) would start playing the intro for it, I'd glare into the heavens, inwardly curse, deliberately reach into my music box and pull out the word card.  I refused, adamantly and vehemently, to learn the words.
Worst upbeat song every.
Worst country song ever.
Worst line-dancing song ever.

The Spousal Unit still thinks "Honey" should be Number One.
But since I sang this horrible piece of crap about a hundred time as opposed to two or three of the Bobby Goldsboro P.O.S., "Achy Breaky Heart" gets my vote for Worst Song Ever.

Memorial Day: The Old Ones

Our dogwood May, 2013
It's Memorial Day 2013.  I think about our veterans, living and gone. I think about my mom and dad, and aunt and uncle.... I think about my brother in law, Bill and my darling sister (in law) Kaya.....

I think about the old dogs.  Winger Joseph and Jesse Ann.

Real names: Keltoi's Power Play, CGN and Truhart's Rescue Remedy, CGC. Winger was from a breeder and Jesse was from a cattledog rescue.

Christmas with the old here to see picture.

Had we but known it, that was our last Christmas together.  I'm very grateful we have that formal picture. By Christmas 2011, they had left us and (I'm convinced) brought Artie into our lives.  (Read The Story HERE. And Part 2 HERE.) I knew Jesse was getting a bit frail and she had some health issues but cattledogs are tough. I really figured Winger would definitely still be with us next holiday season.

The dogwood tree the spousal unit planted in 2010 or '11 (I can't remember) is getting bigger.  It makes me think of their dear hearts.  I hope it outlives me.  Every year I pray for it to bloom and thrive. At its base is a rustic cattledog metal sculpture.

I thought about owning other breeds as I've gotten older and I've fostered some of them. Border Terriers, Papillons, Pit types.... Elke, of course,  is a lovely mix of Elkhound, Shiba, Spaniel and Hound.

But I do think cattledogs are my Heart Dogs and it's very hard to conceive of my life without one in it.

Jamie with dogs 2003
Dri, Jesse and Winger
Winger was with us just short of 10 years (born 3/14/99, arrived her April '01, died 2/11/11).  Jesse was with us from Valentine's Day 2001 to August 2011. Not long enough.  He was almost 12, she was somewhere between 13 and 15, as near as we can reckon. Jamie has Jesse's ashes now, as it should be. I gave the box of Jesse's ashes to her when she visited us last.  Jesse was as much Jamie's dog as ours. So was Wingie. She came into our lives around the same time Jesse Ann and Winger did. We sort of "adopted" her too. The dogs were our Family.  So is Jamie.

Their collars still adorn my mantle. Winger's collar came with him the day he arrived, terrified in a crate, flying from California, until the day he left us, holding him, while his mighty, loving heart stopped.  Jesse wore hers almost the whole time she was with us!

Mom and Wingie on
a road trip to Florida
Darling, weirdo, "pansy-ass-fairy-boy" Wingie, who came to us so damaged, frightened and abused in spirit we never saw his beautiful raccoon tail until he'd been with us three days.  He finally got over his fear of men and blossomed even though he always was scared of thunder and fireworks and had little seizures from age five years on. (Oh yes, and he ate poop. Gross. His worst trait.) A champ at traveling, every trip.  Best traveling dog ever. Loved to play ball, leaping and hopping on a moon-shadow, catching the ball waaaay above your head!  Such a willing dog. Favorite place to sleep: on anyone's legs. Often his head was on or by your foot. If you were at the computer, you had to be careful you didn't trip over him. If you got up, even as he aged, he'd pop up and be fully alert and ready to go. Always "commenting" on every little thing. (His second worst trait.) "Winger, SHUT the F-up!" was said hourly by anyone near by.  Would squeak a stuffy until the squeaker gave it up yet rarely destroyed a toy.  So desperately wanted to get Evil Squirrel.  Loved the water and would fully immerse himself, head and all! Wonderful trail and hiking dog, going a bit ahead of you with his "can't miss it" raccoon tail.  He stop and look for you over his shoulder and wait. (I know he is waiting still for Mom at the Bridge.)  He'd eat anything!  "Clean up in aisle seven!" meant let him in the kitchen to do his job. When he didn't eat for a day, I knew it was near his time. At the end his mighty heart grew three sizes (a tumor) and it was time to let him go. He was a very good dog, so well-behaved.  Probably the best behaved dog I've had yet.  He loved the Spousal Unit, Auntie Jamie, Uncle Daddy, Auntie Megs but he loved, loved, LOVED me. I think he would have died for me.

Jesse 2006
Jesse Ann, the princess. The Boss from Day One. Calm, confident, assertive. So easy-going (except where lawn mowers and vacuums were concerned). Cattledog-stalwart to the end until that time that her body couldn't take much more. The softest ears in Christendom.  Immediately house-trained from day one. Always wanted to play ball!  Madly waggling her stubby at the word "Ball?" Even though, at the very end, she could only go a few shaky, wobbling feet to get the ball, she still wanted to play. Marking like an intact male every where she went on a walk. Learned how to play ball by watching Winger and then, for years, beating him every time!  (We'd keep score, like a volley ball match.) Had the older, pathetic, gimpy dog act going on and then would stealthfully hop over a 4 foot fence like it didn't exist. Quiet; rarely barked.  Except when we'd let them out to potty. She would wait just outside the door for Winger and then snarl, "Barrra-raaar!" right in his face.  Just to remind him just who was who.  She would lean against you and, curving her spine,  bash her head into your jaw when she wanted a pat. She could do "pity-paw" on command.  You would throw the ball, she'd bring it back and you could say "Not close enough, not close up....Cheater!" until it was finally at your feet easily within reach.. Stubborn, lazy and smart.  She was easy; such an easy dog to live with.

I've loved all my "grown-up" dogs: Lab-Shep: Tzara, Cattledogs: Hart, True, Druid and German Pinscher: Dri.   Hart lived the longest (4.22.93-8.19.09, most of those years with just her daddy). We just had Wingie and Jess the longest, it seems. 

I love Elke and Artie with all my heart and we are so blessed to have them with us and sharing our lives.  They can be a royal pain but I adore them!  

But now and then....I miss the Old Ones. Here's a classic moment from around 2005.

Always in our hearts.  (And a million blessings to you, Dri, wherever you are....)

Wingie JoJo & Jesse Ann
Until we meet again.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Gig, May 24, 2013

I did a short singing gig this morning in Middleburg Hts. for Memorial Day with another singer, Ray G. and band leader Billy Kay and drummer Tam.  (I can't remember the piano player's name; it's the first I've met him.). I've done this gig for probably 15-20 years.

Let me start by expressing my gratitude for a paying gig.  Some are stupider than others.  Some I've sucked at.  This one, for me, went pretty well.

Speeches were way too long! Worst ever.  That mayor needs to tighten it up.

Our part of the program was 5-7 minutes. Maybe. The rest of it dragged on for forever.

And the speaker? How exactly does a Korean War veteran from IOWA related in any way to anyone from Middleburg Hits.?  I'll tell way.  And sir, since you a retired US Army Reserve Officer that has had to give speeches all over the USA for years, please be way better prepared.

I won't even comment on the bagpiper except to say his pipes have never been in tune and this year was no exception.  Having lived with a very good piper, trust me, I KNOW the difference. My knuckles were white and at times I flinched.  Nice guy but.....

This was a fairly large crowd of most over 50 folks and some veterans.

Since when do people NOT stand up and join in with "God Bless America?" I was somewhat thunderstruck!
I've sung that song at least 500+ times in public (no lie) and this is the first time, esp. with that age group, that NO ONE stood and joined in the singing.  A lot of them didn't stand for the Pledge of Allegiance either. What the hell is that?  I was actually pretty miffed. Disrespectful. Lazy.

There is no way every single stinking one of you is physically incapable of standing,  You sure as hell got to to your feet when the buffet line started.  You were practically trampling each other!

If you're feeling anti-America, stay the hell at home.  Don't come to a Memorial service for the heroes of any generation. Shame on you!!!

To all the veterans out there, on behalf the lazy, ungrateful, unpatriotic folks, I apologize.  And thank you for your service.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dog Rescue: A Disturbing Trend

I've noticed in Northeast Ohio and have blogged about a very disturbing subject: Dog Rescue Prejudice.  In particular Breed or "Type" Rescue.  The latest trend is dismiss, degrade and vilify breeders of any kind of dog and people who show dogs in any venue (conformation, obedience, agility, etc.)  They are The Problem, they are the Anti-Christ of  the dog rescue world.

It's even gotten so that purebred dogs themselves are defamed; that only the mighty mixed breed or mutt, or worse, "pit-type" dog is the only dog worth caring about.  Remember, folks, I'm a huge proponent of "pit-type" dogs. Every dog should get a fair shake.

I have gotten into some pretty heated debates with people in the rescue community in the last year or so.

I've been getting a lot of heat about even thinking (out loud) about adding another Australian Cattledog from a responsible breeder to our family. That'll learn me to open my big mouth.

"You're contributing to The Problem."

Really?  How?

I don't want to breed.  I highly doubt I would ever be grandmother to a litter.  My heart couldn't handle it. If I showed my dog, I wouldn't want to stand him at stud.  It would be: "Hello Championship, freeze your semen and good-bye balls."

If people researched having kids the way I've researched about adding a puppy/adult dog to our home, we'd probably have smarter, healthier kids.  It's not a willy-nilly decision!  As much as I love Elke, and as sweet as she is, she has some issues which could stem from those first four, unknown months of her life. I know I lucked out with Artie.  Sheer, damn, dumb luck. But I also knew he was a cattledog and I knew that some behaviors are genetic, are endemic to most cattledogs. I had a general idea of what to expect from him.

"Get a shelter dog."  I've lucked out with my one shelter dog.  I'm not knocking shelter dogs. I contribute a lot of time, effort and money to my local shelter. The Spousal Unit has lucked out with many of his shelter dogs. We've lucked out with dogs from rescue organizations, good breeders and retired show dogs. There have been a few clankers throughout the years too but for the most part, we've been lucky.

I'm very vocal about rescue groups, people in "the fancy", dog clubs etc. all working together to help dogs.  To help people with issues they are having, to recommending them to positive, helpful trainers or classes, etc.   Interestingly enough, rescue folks, far too many really good dog trainers and behaviorists out there started their journey, ironically enough, with a purebred dog.  Gasp!

When so many of these rescues are crying for transport, funds etc. I ask them: "How many friends, connections, acquaintances do you have among purebred dog people?"

"Well, none --- cuz they're a bunch of stuck-up snobs."

Really?  Some are pretty stuck up, I'll grant you.  But most are very nice folks to downright awesome people!  Most people I know who are responsible breeders, show folks, trainers etc. try to help dogs and people connect.  So many of them have such a vast wealth of knowledge about training, behavior, nutrition, pet-friendly places, dog management, etc. Do you honestly think, because you rescue dogs, that these people know nothing?

You're begging for a long transport?  Gee, shucks, if you'd made some connections with your local Kennel club; why, son-of-a-gun, one of those folks might be going to a damn dog show and save you some mileage. Instead, you're begging your fellow rescue folks who are so bogged down and overwhelmed most of the time with THEIR dogs who need help.  You're all stretching yourselves so darn thin and then you trash a whole bunch of people who might be able to actually give you a hand.

I've known way too many people involved in purebred dogs who've fostered a mutt litter, transported dogs (sometimes hundreds of miles) spoken up against BSL, gas chambers, high-kill shelters, puppy milling etc etc. The Hershey puppy mill in California and that horrible Rottweiler hoarding-milling situation (n Texas I believe) are two prime examples of where "The Fancy" rolled up their sleeves and helped hundreds of dogs.

So all you high and mighty types in the Rescue community, I say to you: How many responsible breeders or owners do you really know?  And I would ask why?  Chances are, other than me and maybe a wee handful of others I'd say: None.  You've seen the crappy end of the lollipop. Backyard breeders, idiot owners, cruelty, neglect, etc. etc. etc.

You whine, bitch and moan about Breed or Type Prejudice ("Pit Bulls get all the bad rap in the news...") and then you slap the same stuff on Those Dog Show People and Those Breeders as a collective group of bad-asses.

Ninety-nine percent of them are not The Problem. They don't live in some airy-fairy land of, "Dogs aren't dying daily by the thousands."  Far too many of the purebred or dog show folks I've known for the past 25 years have endlessly given their time, money, heart and help to dogs in need and vehemently fight the good fight again BSL etc.  Far too many have a Pit among their Poodles, a Mutt with their Malamutes, a deaf, 3-legged Beagle with their Bouviers.  They love dogs too. They could be some of your greatest allies.

Why would you unilaterally dismiss an entire group of people like that?  Since when do you not judge a person by their deeds and if they "walk the talk?"  Whose nostrils are sunburned from your upturned nose now?  Who is the snob, really?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Blue Ridge Dog Scout Mini Camp: 2013 Mini Camp!

Blue Ridge Dog Scout Mini Camp: 2013 Mini Camp!: Just a quick note to let you know that registration for the 2013 Blue Ridge DSA Mini Camp will be opening soon!  Dates for next year will ...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Cleveland Miracle Girls. May 7, 2013

Those poor girls that were found in Cleveland yesterday. Missing for a decade. So many prayers going up for them and their families!  I hope God/Goddess and the angels bless you and HEAL you.  You are with your families, safe now.  So much love and support is pouring out for you three brave women.  

I know exactly where this house is  --- I grew up near there.

I'm betting they were held as sex slaves.   Poor sweethearts.  Prayers..... Amanda, you did a super brave thing!

I wish people would quit saying , "It's a Cleveland-Big City-Inner City-Poor-People thing!  If they had been lost in the suburbs, they would have been found years ago."   

It's not just urban places or a certain ethnicity. We all know that. To think it's an urban, poor, Black, Hispanic thing is rather arrogant and elitist. 

 Rural, suburban, inner-city: appalling crap like this happens all the time and in every country in the world.  

Sex slavers, human traffickers are very stealthy and extremely clever. They usually appear "normal," your neighbor, maybe a friend or even a relative.  One of these monster-slavers was a bus driver! And they are everywhere.  Human trafficking is HUGE and it 's a big money-maker!  It's a billion dollar industry.  To quote Major Strasau, the bad Nazi Major in CASABLANCA, "My dear Mademoiselle  perhaps you have already observed that in Casablanca, human life is cheap." It's cheap in a lot of places, alas.

I say it's because we DON'T KNOW OUR NEIGHBORS ANY MORE...we don't get out of our damn houses, we don't watch over each other.  We're too busy being on the computer, playing video games, watching TV, not teaching kids "stranger danger" and street smarts.  We want kids inside because we think they're "safer" that way. They're not.  They are more at risk because they are clueless and soft. 

The kids and young adults that know the world, good or bad, know their neighbors, know how to get help and "read" people, those are kids that are much less likely to get hurt.  I have met so many 20-somethings and teenagers who are so engrossed with their phones etc. that they have no idea what's immediately around them.  So obviously clueless.  They have no street smarts, no instincts, no ability to "listen to their guts," no concept of human interaction that doesn't involve a "device" of some sort. 

Get to know your neighbors.  Watch over each other. We are all children of the world.  We are not islands.  We are all interconnected!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why Anerican Idol Sucks

Read this first:
Harry Connick American Idot

Thank you Harry Connick Jr.  I burn incense at your alter, dude!

I may never be a great singer, or a famous one but I know how to SING and I can emote through a song.  I am a very good singer of the American Song Book. I've listen, learned and studied.  I also had a very good first coach....

THIS, ladies and gents, is why I don't watch American Idol.  It's why a lot of modern Broadway "belters" drive me simply insane.  All the trills, showy crap is fifty levels of bullcrap.  It's why I can only watch GLEE  occasionally. It's why a lot o choral directors should be slapped six ways of Sundays.  Singers today? Too loud, too brash, too much "whine," too much "big", too much belt......too much B.S.

I'm grateful as heck my mother slapped that sh*t out of me when I was a teenager.  Literally.

It's also why I tell people I've coached, "If you can't sing a standard a capella starting one note and ending in the same pitch you started on....go back and LISTEN!  Listen to Frank, Nat, Ella, Peggy Lee, etc. Then sing for me.  Then we'll talk. Your voice will LAST for decades!"

In my 30-odd professional career (small though it may be) I've been thwarted, belittled, bullied, verbally abused, picked on, told I was Less Than, Not AS Good As So-And-So for years by band leaders, horn players and some directors but I'm here on record to say I'm damn proud of myself today.

I am much better than I ever thought.  It may be a day late and dollar short.  I may be in the twilight of my career but oh well.  I can sing, by God, and sing well. I can interpret and share the Great American Songbook.

And for the record, IF I ever got the chance to be coached by Mr. Connick, I'd suck up every morsel and run with it.