Archive for June, 2014

Country Music fan

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Compared to drivers who commute from Sonoma County to San Francisco every day, my Cotati to Novato commute is pretty lightweight and easy. I just point the steering wheel forward and fall in line with the other several thousand cars creeping up 101.

Now that I’m in the car for significant chunks of time, I’ve started listening to the radio again. But what station to tune into? For a while, I just kept pushing the scan button – I think every fourth station was playing Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” there was one talk station and one classical, and the rest were in Spanish.

Then I landed on the local country music station and stayed there for a while. This is something I never thought I would find myself saying because no one in my family has ever owned a pickup truck, I don’t drink, and daisy dukes were never my style…but I have become a fan of country music.

I am totally intrigued and impressed by the way country music songwriters tell a story. There’s a beginning, middle and end – following the story of a guy meeting a girl, taking us through how the evening progresses and how it wraps up. I love Joe Nichols’ song “Yeah.” There is an innocence to it.

And women in country music are definitely treated better than in pop songs. They aren’t objectified into boobs, bootys and more unmentionable features. Sure, there are plenty of mentions of sundresses and tight jeans in country music, but the underlying feeling that comes through is more appreciation and affection for women than just about having sex.

I like that country music has a sense of humor.  The Band Perry sings “Chainsaw” about a girl who’s going to take a chainsaw to the tree where her jerk of a former lover carved their initials. Imagining this jilted girl who is so angry that she’s out there swinging a chainsaw at an oak tree in somebody’s front yard is funny – but who can’t relate to how she feels?

Sometimes when I’m listening to the country station, I play “Country Song Bingo.” That’s where I keep a little score sheet in my mind with all the clichés of country music and I check them off as they come up in songs; things like beer, moon, tailgates, pickup trucks, tractors, jeans, soldiers, America, God, driving while drinking, cops, tequila and every other form of hard liquor. I can really hit the jackpot with a song like Tyler Farr’s “Whiskey in My Water.”

And the line in the song right before that is, “She’s the moon in my shine.” How can a lyric like that not bring a smile to your face. Silly? You bet, but also sweet.

Visiting Petaluma

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Just in case you didn’t know, Petaluma is a great little town to spend an afternoon window shopping and sight-seeing.

I spent three years working at the Petaluma Visitors Center encouraging people…as the Sonoma County Visitors Guide says…to experience Petaluma’s “charm of hometown Americana with wine country sophistication.”

But I’m sorry to say now that I live in Cotati and work in Marin County, most of the time I think of Petaluma as the five miles on 101 where traffic is going to crawl. I just want to get to the north or south end of town so that this long snake of cars that I’m stuck in the middle of can pick up speed and I can get home or get to work.

However, because I have worked outside of the community for the past six months, when Steve and I decided to celebrate the first day of summer by sharing a gelato in Petaluma, I had the opportunity to look at it with fresh eyes and appreciate what a picturesque, walkable town it is.

We parked in the Theatre District where there was plenty of free parking – love that – and headed to Powell’s. Of course, this being Petaluma, within minutes, we ran into a friend whose children had gone through school with ours. We probably only spent five minutes chatting, sharing the headlines of the our families’ news, but hearing that her beautiful daughters were doing great and that she had found a job in town that she is perfectly suited for, was an encouragement to us. Good things do come to good people.

In downtown Petaluma, we reminisced about all the Saturday afternoons we spent with our kids in Copperfields – remembering how our almost 22 year-old daughter loved going to “Copperfee-leds” when she was three for a new Angelina Ballerina book, or how her older brother couldn’t wait to get the next book in the Redwall  series.

We walked across the Balshaw Bridge and commented on how the city is recognizing the potential of the river. Although the area south of Water Street looks a little sad now, if the restoration of the Trestle becomes a reality, Petaluma will have a River attraction like now where else. We poked our heads into Dempsey’s and Taps and both joints were jumping.  Getting a beer looked tempting but too bad for us, we had just scraped out every last molecule from our cup of vanilla, coffee and chocolate almond gelato. We’ll save the beer for another visit.

My only disappointment for the afternoon was discovering that Viva Cocolat had closed. Of course, their chocolate was the best, but I had especially enjoyed getting to know the owner during my time at the Visitors Center. Lynn Wong could always be counted on to generously contribute to community events.

When Steve snapped this photo on his phone, we commented that it looked like it could be anywhere in the world. But the great thing is, it’s Petaluma.

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Where I left off in last week’s blog was a photo of Jennifer Lynn in her cap and gown, beaming with enthusiasm about leaving high school behind and moving onto the independence that she believes awaits her in college.

She has good reason to smile because she is a very blessed graduate.  Her prayers that a fat envelope from a four year school would be her ticket out living with her “I’ll take the senior discount” parents in a 1600 square foot condo in Cotati, have been answered.

You see, like most high school seniors these days, she applied to almost 10 colleges, most of them in the northeast. She didn’t apply to any California state schools; her strategy was that hoped to get enough scholarship money from a private school that the cost would equal that of a state school and she knew she would be able to graduate in four years – something that is not always possible at a CSU or UC.

By early April, she had heard back from seven out of the eight schools she had applied to. She had been accepted by all of them except Northwestern (a definite long shot) and she had gotten significant scholarship money from all of them but even with that, given the astronomical cost of college, she was still looking at borrowing six figures to finance an undergraduate degree. There was no way we would go along with that plan.

Thankfully, Jennifer Lynn is a practical girl; disappointed as she was, she knew that the JC was her best option and we did our best to help her see the positive aspects. We told her:  it’s an excellent school;  it’s not where you start that matters, it’s where you end up. We even suggested that she could consider finding some roommates and moving out as a way to signify a step into adulthood and give her a sense that she wasn’t just settling for “the high school after high school.”

There were some tears but it only took about a week before Jennifer started to embrace the good things that could come from going to the JC. She even started researching the class schedule and their study abroad program.

Then she got some news from Pepperdine, the one school she hadn’t heard from yet. She sent me a text while I was at work, saying that she had just gotten an email from them. Even in the short message, I could tell she was practically hyperventilating. She forwarded the email to me.”Am I reading this right? Are they offering me a full tuition scholarship?!!”

Yes, Pepperdine did offer her full tuition for four years. Jennifer is a good student, had good SAT and ACT scores and a good range of activities. But why did she get a scholarship that when looked at as just a number, is a ridiculous amount of money?

Frankly, we don’t know but we’re grateful. She will be in Southern California where her older sister is, it’s a conservative school (that makes me happy) and she will be in arguably the media capital of the world – what better place than LA to pursue broadcast communications.

We are thanking God every day. Steve reminds Jennifer that she too, should be on her knees every night thanking God. While Cotati isn’t exactly the fiery pit, he did rescue her and come August 20 when we drop her off in Malibu, she will be set free.

Gradation #3

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

The interesting thing about graduation season, unlike other seasons of the year such as the holiday season or allergy season, is that passes by unnoticed by most of the population. Unless of course, you have a student graduating. Then, it becomes a date on the calendar that all other plans revolve around. I found myself thinking in terms of tasks that I wanted to take care of as B.G. (Before Graduation) or A.G. (After Graduation). JenniferHappy2-72

Shivering through Jennifer Lynn’s graduation from Montgomery High on Friday night marked the end of a very significant graduation season for us. Hers was the third graduation for our family in as many weeks. Earlier in the month, Ethan graduated from the Defense Language Institute, then we went to Valerie’s college graduation in Southern California, and lastly Jennifer’s. One graduation is pretty big deal; did I feel special because we had three? You betcha.

Now, I’m suffering from a little bit of post-graduation let down. I’m looking at her red cap and gown in a heap on the floor of her room and it reminds me of the way I feel about the Christmas tree the day after Christmas. What looked so festive on December 25th looks so sad and droopy on December 26th.

But as I’m thinking about indulging myself and wallowing in this pit of depression, I’m also thinking about the photos that Steve took of the kids after each of their graduation ceremonies. Smiling, downright radiant, celebrating overcoming the challenges and energized by the promise of the future.

That is the look of hope. I’m going to embrace it.