Love Me February 9-10

I’m trying to keep up with Paula’s monthlong challenge to blog every day this month something we love, by posting every few days! Here are 9 and 10, and I am not putting these in any particular order – I write them as I think of them.

Feb. 9 I love…summer. Long days, sunshine, warm weather, vacation, all of it.

Feb. 10: I love…music. I have a varied taste and go through periods of favorite genres. When in the car, I like to listen to the Beatles challenge on XM radio. For background music, I prefer classical, which is currently my favorite genre. I like jazz, blues, rock (oldies mostly – my generation’s rock music is now in that category!), big band, movie soundtracks, folk, religious, world. My second favorite genre is world music – music from around the world. I have spent quite a lot of time in Brazil over the years, and got to love their music – samba music, bossa nova, Brazilian rock (some of it – they have metal, like everywhere now, which I don’t like). I also like humor, when it’s well-done (listen to the last song below).

In fact, there are really only two genres of music I don’t much like: rap/hip hop and metal. Metal to me is just noise, but my son loves it. Rap/hip hop – it may be because ethnically I am not part of the culture. Back in the 1960s, there were wonderful soul groups like The Supremes (RIP, Mary Wilson!), Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, etc. Most soul music was great to dance to. Actually, I do like some hip hop/rock that gets me dancing – that is the case with a lot of Latin American pop music nowadays, which I do enjoy. And I do respect rappers for what they do – how they can improvise rhymes on the spur of the moment, and do that for a 5 minute song. Some of the danceable hip hop tunes I got to like while taking Zumba classes.

Other international music I particularly like is Celtic/folk, traditional music from Latin America and from Africa. Sometimes I get to like a particular type of music after I traveled to the area where it comes from. Usually it’s discovering something I hadn’t heard before, but I found out about several popular groups while traveling – La Oreja de Van Gogh in Spain, for example – I love their music. I don’t need to understand the language to appreciate the music, although it helps if I do. Music is an international language, that can be appreciated anywhere, but some music contains the soul of its people – blues, African songs, Celtic, etc.

Below are a few of my favorite (short) musical pieces. All have special meaning for me and give me tremendous saudades (a Portuguese word with an approximate meaning in English as melancholy, nostalgia, longing).

Enjoy the music!

My very favorite bossa nova song, because it brings back a lot of memories!

This Scottish song about a young man going off to war is kind of melancholy but it is one of my favorites.

My favorite international band is from Spain, La Oreja de Van Gogh. This one is more animated. Their music gives me so many saudades because I used to listen to them a lot.

Angel City Chorale is a choir I’ve known about for many years. They do religious, pop, and foreign language songs. I had never heard this one before, but I like it because of its African beat and language.

Here’s another one from Angel City Chorale that most will surely recognize. You don’t hear anything at first but keep listening! Originally sung by Toto, I had this song in my head the whole time we were in Tanzania*, so that is what it reminds me of! They also do Beatles and Beach Boys medleys, among others.

*I wanted to find out if you can see Mount Kilimanjaro from the Serengeti – you can’t.

And to end, here is a new release from Randy Rainbow. I LOVE this guy – he is so talented – he has a great voice and writes new humorous lyrics to well-known songs. Warning: This has a definite political slant.

FPQ #108: Do We Need a Special Day to Celebrate Love?

FPQ

Fandango’s intro to this week’s Provocative Question: Valentine’s Day is just four days from today. This coming Sunday is a day that people in love all around the globe — well, okay, in the United States, for sure — celebrate love and romance. So my perhaps not so provocative question this week is all about Valentine’s Day, how you feel about it and how you plan to celebrate the day.

Here’s my question….

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Do you consider it to be a special day, one where you express your deep love and appreciation for your significant other? Or is it just a commercialized “Hallmark Holiday” where you feel pressured to spend money on cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, and/or expensive dinners in order to stay on the good side of the one you love? Either way, what, if anything, are your plans for Valentine’s Day this year?

I do believe in Valentine’s Day as a way to celebrate our love for others. Some people need to be reminded to remember loved ones or to say “I love you.” Those who don’t express themselves well verbally can get a card and a small gift. My husband, Dale, used to get me flowers every year.

Actually, Valentine’s Day isn’t like other “Hallmark holidays” – it has a long history, although the facts are a little uncertain. One story says that Valentine was a priest during the Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius II forbade young men from getting married because he thought unmarried men made better soldiers. The priest thought this was unjust and continued to marry young lovers in secret. He became a martyr (either this priest or another religious figure, the Bishop of Terni) when he was imprisoned for performing these secret marriages. He was held in the home of a noble, and there he healed the noble’s daughter of blindness, which caused him to be considered a saint. Before he was tortured and put to death on February 14, he sent the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.”

St. Valentine – downloaded from Google Images

Whatever the story or legend, Valentine’s Day began to be associated with love during the Middle Ages, and St. Valentine became one of the most popular saints in Europe. When selecting a date to celebrate this saint, some believe Feb. 14 (originally Feb. 15) was deliberately chosen to correspond to the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, celebrating the Roman fertility god, Lupercus. Unlike Valentine’s Day, however, Lupercalia was a bloody, violent, and sexually-charged celebration of animal sacrifice, random matchmaking and coupling to ward off evil spirits and appease the god of fertility. To learn more about St. Valentine and Lupercalia, go to the History Channel’s website page about the history of Valentine’s Day.

There are what I would call Hallmark holidays (like “Sweethearts’ Day” and “Grandparents’ Day”), but Valentine’s Day is not one of them.

However, I have a special reason to “believe in” Valentine’s Day as a special day – it’s Dale’s birthday! So I have a special valentine all of my own!!

Dale and me in Amsterdam, January 2018

It’s not necessarily fun to have a spouse with a birthday on a special day like Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to get restaurant reservations for that special birthday dinner, and some places have special menus and the cost is higher! If you’re like me, who tends to forget to do things until the last minute, you’re out of luck calling around to get reservations on the actual day of Valentine’s Day. I look for that special combo Valentine’s Day birthday card, and I can usually find one or two. But generally, I give him two different cards and a gift more appropriate for his birthday than the token gift I would give for Valentine’s Day.

Image result for valentine's day images

A popular Valentine’s Day gift is candy. Especially if you are a woman looking for something to give your spouse or boyfriend, candy is usually the default. But neither Dale nor I need to have such temptations in the house! I could get flowers for him – after all, why shouldn’t a woman get flowers for a man? Men like flowers, too, at least most of them seem to. But if I got him flowers and he decided to surprise me in the same way (since candy is a no-no), we’d have too many flowers and it would seem more like an even exchange than something special. I think this is why neither of us bothers to buy the other one Valentine’s Day gifts anymore. I have to find a gift for him anyway.

It used to be a double whammy when I was teaching, because invariably there would be a Valentine’s Day party for the kids, and parents would bring in all kinds of goodies that I generally found irresistible. That would be after hustling the night before to sign a Valentine’s Day card for each student from the packs of 10 or 12 that I’d bought at a store. I didn’t usually worry about providing treats, because parents usually did that, but I generally would get at least a bag of candy so I could give one or two pieces to each child along with the card.

Then after the festivities at school, I’d go home and…there’d be candy or possibly a birthday cake. Fortunately, I am not teaching anymore, and being retired, it’s our job to sit back and let the kids do special things for us! In fact, our daughter has already warned us that she plans to make her dad a cake this year, which she hasn’t done the last few years. (But she’s all domesticated now that she’s married – she or her husband often cook special dishes for us.) That said, instead of being able to get together and share it, she’ll probably have to drop it off over the fence of our complex and we’ll be stuck eating the whole thing! I shouldn’t complain – everything she cooks is great and often quite innovative, but I seem to be in a perpetual struggle to lose weight!

My brother-in-law celebrates Valentine’s Day every year by performing “Singing Valentines” with his barbershop quartet. I don’t know if they will do it this year, but I will miss seeing it in our community dining room (which is closed due to Covid). Anyway, it’s a great surprise gift for someone’s special sweetheart and the group earns quite a bit of money that day!

Whatever the case, although we should celebrate love every day, I think it is a wonderful thing in these always challenging times to have at least one day called Valentine’s Day.

Image result for valentine's day images

Craft Jingle Jolly Tree!

I’m back again, ready for days 8-11 of Tourmaline’s Countdown to Christmas!

Day 8: Craft – I don’t do crafts, but as a teacher’s aide, I helped many first graders make gingerbread houses!

Day 9: Jingle If I don’t have something of my own to share, I go to YouTube. Enjoy the music!

Jingle Bells

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Day 10: Jolly Ray Conniff Singers

Day 10: Jolly – Ray Conniff Singers

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Day 11: Tree
I haven’t had a Christmas tree the last two years, but I intend to go out and get a small one so I can use some of the ornaments I’ve collected over the years that have sentimental value. Meanwhile, here’s our Christmas tree at our old house. This (fake) tree was about 7 feet tall!

This is frustrating and never happened to me before! When I published this post, WordPress jammed the videos & photos together and completely took out my narrative! I tried to fix it by going back and designating each narrative as a paragraph block, followed by a video/picture block, but it didn’t work! So I had to make my Tree narrative a caption for the last photo and add lines in between each (which don’t even show up) to separate them.

L-APC: The Alphabet

The Alphabet starts with “A” and that is the subject of Lens-Artists’ photo challenge this week, starting appropriately with the amazing letter A!

I have a file of letter-shaped things. I got the idea for it when I saw this cute little ladder in our neighborhood and immediately thought of the letter A!

abelia grandiflora
Austria
Austrians

My brother-in-law sings in a barbershop chorus called The Arlingtones. It is based in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Arlingtones holiday show 2019

In Cairo we visited the Museum of Islamic Art. Arabic writing is an art form in itself!

Arabic writing from the Ottoman Empire

In the spring, swans mate and lay their eggs. In early April, the female has laid 2 eggs and by the end of April, she has laid all her eggs!

Art (painting by Monet)
Arches National Park, Utah
ancient architecture (Karnak, Luxor, Egypt)

Countdown 2 Xmas

I’m struggling to keep up with Tourmaline’s Countdown to Christmas! I got as far as Day 3, so today I’ll have to get four more days done!

Day 4: Movie
There are lots of holiday movies but only two of them have ever been an annual tradition. When I was a kid, every year we’d watch Menotti’s operetta Amahl and the Night Visitors. My siblings and I knew it so well that even today we can quote (singing, of course!) from it.

Several years ago, I acquired the DVD of Love Actually, which is sort of a holiday movie. I really enjoy this movie and we watch it almost every year. There were a few things that made it special:
1. Colin Firth
2. Colin Firth attempting to speak Portuguese
3. the soundtrack
4. Sam, the 12-year-old character
5. the scene where the prime minister (played by Hugh Grant) “tells off” the American president
6. the fact that my mother loved it until she thought about it and decided it was “soft porn.”
7. Colin Firth proposing to the love of his life in Portuguese at a restaurant in Portugal

Day 5: Music

I love carols and Christmas songs, but my favorites are the classical pieces associated with Christmas: Handel’s Messiah, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and others. That said, I love a few Christmas songs that I can’t get enough of.

Oddly, although I don’t believe that it is a fact that Jesus was actually the product of a virgin Mary and God, nor that Jesus literally walked on water, etc., my favorite three Christmas songs that give me goosebumps are:
Mary Did You Know


The Cherry Tree Carol

The Prayer (not specifically for Christmas, but it’s on Celine Dion’s Christmas album)

Day 6: Plants
A poinsettia, what else?? The poinsettia is native to Mexico where some of its leaves turn red (or white) around Christmas time. This happens because of the shorter days of December. I was told that if I wanted my poinsettia to rebloom, I should put it in a dark place, to coax the leaves to turn red again. Instead, I killed the poinsettia because I forgot about it and it was totally neglected! Here’s a photo I took in January of a poinsettia with red & white leaves (obviously it didn’t live in my house!)

Day 7: Fireplace
My son and I never lived in a place with a fireplace when he was young enough to believe in Santa Claus! I would hang his stocking on a nail! By the time we moved into our house with a fireplace, he was 10 and no longer believed in Santa. So then I just hung decorative stockings over the fireplace! Alas, I have not a single photo!


SLS: Clear

Clear is a song by Needtobreathe, which perfectly suits the Song Lyrics Sunday prompt of Clear/Dark/Light.

You are the moonlight in the sky that I’m pursuing
You are the reason for what I’m doing
You are the crystalline that keeps me from my ruin
You are the movement
You’re the true north pointing back home
You are the constant, my constellation
You’re the steady hands of a ticking clock that I’ll come to rely on
Oh, it’s so clear come a little closer all of my love is right here
I just want to hear you whispering you still trust
You’re the only thing that I have ever been sure of
I just wanna be where you are
I promise I won’t let you down
Honey, it’s so clear now
You are the four winds
You’re the catalyst of high hopes
You are the beauty
The sparks revival
You are the oxygen inside these lungs that’s giving life to my bones
Oh, it’s so clear
Come a little closer all of my love is right here
I just want to hear you whispering you still trust
You’re the only thing that I have ever been sure of
I just wanna be where you are I promise I won’t let you down
Honey, it’s so clear now
Oh, it’s so clear come a little closer
All of my love is right here
I just want to hear you whispering you still trust
You’re the only thing that I have ever been sure of
I just wanna be where you are I promise I won’t let you down
Honey, it’s so clear now
Honey, it’s so clear now
It’s so clear now
I promise I won’t let you down
Honey, it’s so clear now
Honey, it’s so clear now
Honey, it’s so clear now
It feels like heaven is coming down
It’s right here with me its all around
I once was so lost but I am found
When I’m with you
No ones watching the way you move
Your body’s dancing under the moon
You always know just what to do
When I’m with you
When I’m with you
When I’m with you
When I’m with you

Before I started looking for a song with this prompt, I had never heard of this song or the band, either, but I liked the song immediately. Clear is on the band’s album Hard Love, which was released on July 15, 2016. Atwood Magazine: For the Love of Music describes the song as being about a man who is following a guiding light, most likely a person. The lyrics explain that because of that guide, he will be there for others and will not let them down. His love has affected him in the most positive ways. With the addition of the background chorus, the song becomes inspirational.

Needtobreathe’s bass guitarist Seth Bolt wrote this song for his wife, Tori, just before their marriage in 2016. Seth Bolt told iHeartRadio, “I just got married a month ago, so it was really personal for me. It was really cool to get to surprise my wife and have it be the song we dance to as our first dance at our wedding. It’s a long song just about the depth and the beauty love can have. I was working on this with the guys literally two weeks before I got married. So never have I had the opportunity to craft a song that I knew was going to be played at my wedding.” (Source)

Faith is a frequent topic for Needtobreathe, who convey a message that is easy to relate to. Hard Love was the band’s sixth studio album and dealt with the hardships of being on the road day in and day out and tells of the band’s efforts to maintain their relationships while on the road. It illuminates the power of getting through adversity and the ability to rise above it.

According to Southern Living, Needtobreathe’s music is usually classified as “Christian Rock” because there is a hint of spirituality in their music and they were inspired by gospel music when they were growing up in South Carolina. Band leaders Bo and Bear Rinehart said they grew up playing music in their dad’s church – their father was a pastor. However, Needtobreathe believes their music has a wider appeal and want to break out of the “Christian Rock” genre label.

Clear is truly a beautiful love song, which should appeal anyone who has ever had a “great love.”

Song Lyrics Sunday: It’s Getting Better


This week in Jim Adams’ Song Lyrics Sunday, we were to post a song with Good/Better/Best/Great. Yes, it was the Beatles song that first made me type in the words “It’s Getting Better” on YouTube. Being a longtime Beatles fan, I thought, yeah, this is one of the theme songs of my generation, of my life. It often comes into my head in the car or whenever someone says anything resembling the title.  But then I found another song with the same title – and I liked it, a lot! So I decided to choose this little known gem sung by Cass Elliot (“Mama Cass” of the Mamas and the Papas). The person who posted it on YouTube with the moniker “wearyoldman” says that the song was recorded in 1969. The Mamas and the Papas were not involved in this recording, although they are shown on the video. Cass Elliot died a tragic death in 1974 and Michelle Phillips is the only surviving member of the band. 

By the way, she never liked the name “Mama Cass.” (Would you, if it was associated with a line in one of their songs And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass??)

It’s Getting Better
Composed by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Sung by Cass Elliot

Once I believed that when love came to me
It would come with rockets, bells and poetry
But with me and you
it just started quietly and grew
And believe it or not
Now there’s something groovy and good
‘Bout whatever we got

And it’s gettin’ better
Growing stronger warm and wilder
Gettin’ better everyday, better everyday

I don’t feel all turned on and starry eyed
I just feel a sweet contentment deep inside
Holding you at night
just seems kind of natural and right
And it’s not hard to see
That it isn’t half of what it’s gonna turn out to be

‘Cause it’s gettin’ better
Growing stronger, warm and wilder
Gettin’ better everyday, better everyday
Ba da da da da da da da da da da da

And I don’t mind waitin’,
I don’t mind waitin’
‘Cause no matter how long it takes
The two of us know

That it’s gettin better
Growing stronger, warm and wilder
Gettin better everyday, better everyday…

This song contains so much of the “pop song” spirit of the late 1960s, and as I listen to it, it makes me think of those days when I was a teenager longing for love, even though I don’t remember ever hearing this song before. Maybe it’s the familiarity of her great pop song voice.

The song was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and was included on Cass Elliot’s solo album Bubblegum, Lemonade and… Something for Mama, released in June 1969. The Wrecking Crew, a regular back-up band for the Mamas and the Papas, were among the instrumentalists for this album.

It’s Getting Better, however, was not a new song. The first known recording was by the Vogues on their Reprise Records release, Turn Around, Look at Me in August of 1968. Also in 1968, it was featured on an album by Leonard Nimoy (I never knew he sang!), The Way I Feel, released in October. A New York based trio that recorded many Mann-Weil songs, called The Will-o-Bees, had a singles release of It’s Getting Better on the SGC label. However, Cass Elliot was the only artist with top name recognition that had recorded the song, and it was her version that became well-known.

Since then, though, it has been covered by a number of well-known artists around the world. It’s just a happy, feel-good song, which is how I would like to remember “Mama” Cass Elliot.

Background information was obtained from a Wikipedia article.

See also 50 years ago, July 5, 1969… in Rock & Roll Globe.

LAPC: Surprise!

We have so many surprises in life. Unfortunately, it is rare for me to get a picture of it – such as the swans on one of our lakes mating! Another resident here, a wily older man from Germany, took a series of pictures of the swans’ mating ritual – before, during, and after – close-up! I’m not that clever, I guess.  So at first I was hard pressed to think of photos I had taken that represent surprise, which is the topic of Lens-Artists’ photo challenge this week. I noticed several participants had freaky nature photos, which I don’t.

Still, nature often does provide more subtle surprises. I call this photo “Hostas with a hostage” – because they’ve completely surrounded a flower pot!

Every day that I go to our community garden, I take a look at others’ gardens and sometimes take photos. I took the “before” picture as an example for my daughter how to plant marigolds around your garden to protect it from squirrels, etc.  I took the photo ion early June.

Then a few days ago, I noticed how fast it grew – it doesn’t look like the same garden!

Is this normal? I don’t know, but we have had a good balance of sunny and rainy weather this month. Nature always surprises me. When I went to the nursery to buy plants in mid-May, I saw this unusual flower – it looks like it is wearing a bonnet!

A safari always brings surprises – you never know what you are going to see and every safari is different. On our Tanzanian safari, I had almost given up seeing a leopard closer up than this:

Then, on our last day in Serengeti National Park, we were bumping along a dusty road when suddenly our driver turned around and sped back to the spot where we’d seen the leopard in a tree. He’d been notified that there were “spots below” (code for leopard on the ground). The leopard had gotten up from her nap and came down the tree, where she looked around at all the tourists gawking at her.

Seeing no danger, (all the humans were “contained”), she then leisurely ambled past all the safari trucks, including ours.

Another big surprise we had in Tanzania was seeing groups of boys alongside the road, who were undergoing a monthlong puberty ritual. Our guide told us this was very unusual to see, since the Maasai only undergo this ritual every three years – the boys are aged about 12-15.

These boys paint their faces white and wear black during the monthlong ritual in which they go from being boys to men. They have to spend a month living communally, away from their families, and are not allowed to associate with anyone in their village except each other.

Surprises come in many forms. Sometimes you can be driving along a country road, as we were, in north central Iowa, when we came across “Pinkie.”

And I love coming across unusual sights walking around the city of Chicago.

Speaking of Iowa, our biggest surprise on our 4-day trip there happened when we checked into our hotel in Mason City for the night. The concierge asked us if we wanted to see the band American English in concert that night. The tickets were free and American English is the best Beatles tribute band in the country. They were to play at the Surf Ballroom, a famous concert venue in Clear Lake, Iowa (about 20 miles from Mason City), known for the event “the day the music died” when Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson played their last concert before being killed in a plane crash.

So we said, “Why not?” and spent a completely unexpected evening in a crowded theatre where people were dancing in the aisles and singing along. It was great!

Selfie of me and Dale having a great time with people of our generation!

LAPC: Long & Winding

Lens-Artists’ 100th(!) photo challenge is long and winding roads.

French countryside, province of Normandy
Not exactly a road, actually it’s a path. But it’s a long way down! Above the town of Arromanches, France and Port Winason. The British created an artificial harbor here using old barges and truck bodies, which was named Port Winston, in preparation for D-Day.
The island of Mont St-Michel is reached by a long causeway at low tide (at high tide, the island is cut off from the shore). Taken from the abbey at the top of Mont St-Michel, France.
Are we looking down at the road just traveled, the road yet to be traveled, or the road not traveled? Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
The road winds up and down mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
A long and winding hiking trail (which we did not explore) at Arches National Park, Utah, USA. We were content to photograph the scenery!
A dusty and winding road at the base of Masada plateau, Israel – the workers’ entrance?
A very long and very dusty path for the hardy hikers who take it up to the Masada plateau. Taken from the cable car our group wisely chose!
Another photo of hikers on a very windy path taken from the top, at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
Not much of the road is visible here, but the sign tells us about it! Near Oatman, Arizona, USA
Around that 15 mph bend in the road and who do we see? A couple of Oatman residents on the road! Oatman, Arizona, an old mining town today survives because of the tourists on Route 66, (of which this is a part), who come for the burros that hang around town – and hike along the road! Oatman has a couple of Route 66 touristy stores and buildings that are the remnants of its mining heyday.
Leaving Sedona, Arizona, after a weekend celebration of the 70th anniversary of Verde Valley School, where I attended high school (but much less than 70 years ago!).

And to end, I can’t resist – because this is what I was singing in my head while composing this post.