Cautionary tales with a side of singing

A recent book review sparked my interest. Some publishing houses are really pulling out the stops and know just how to attract readers! Take a look at this!

I was intrigued and did what I do far too many times–took a quick jaunt over to Amazon. I like to support businesses that acknowledge me on a first name basis. Then, a big surprise to me and probably a shock to my family as well as the guy who drives the Amazon delivery truck right up to our door, I did NOT purchase…not yet anyway.

The temptation is there, but then temptation is a key element of many cautionary tales, and the Brothers Grimm are perhaps our most familiar purveyors of warning.  One source notes that unless  you’re reading the “lightened up” fairy tales, the Disney-fied condensed versions, some fables should only be read “to kids you hate.” A harsh statement? I think perhaps they got it right.

Even Disney can be too much for me–think of Bambi or Dumbo.

When Sophia was in preschool I would read to her from a beautiful book that told the story of Bambi. It was not a “baby book’ but geared for young children with a well-developed attention span. I had a problem reading it to her, however, because I had to be lightning fast with story substitutions. She loved the flirtatious play between Bambi and Faline, but I couldn’t manage to read the parts involving Bambi’s mother and the hunter. Mothers don’t fare well in these fables.  Come to think of it, neither do fathers.

The truth is that I do find the brothers rather “grim,”   but I’ll admit I’m fascinated.  Then again, fascination is one of the major pitfalls in the majority of cautionary tales. Beware!

Musical entertainment is always my first choice and generally a lighter way for me to absorb a dark story.

I hope that many of you will make the effort to see the current release of “Into the Woods.” If you are not familiar with the original play, let me assure you that although older children might enjoy the movie, it is not primarily for children. Familiar fairy tale characters enter other stories in the most unique and creative unfolding to remind us all to be careful what we wish for, what we dream about, what we run after…temptation and lust and greed–and so much more. The brilliant Stephen Sondheim allowed some changes to make his wonderful work more cinematic, with some scenes less graphic and violent than the stage play. Disney has experience in this area. Nothing replaces live musical theater, but this is a good adaptation.  Read what Variety has to say for a much better review than I can provide. I’d see it again simply for Meryl Streep’s performance.

And my granddaughters are now ready to begin enjoying some of the live performances that are plentiful in Los Angeles.


Two grandmothers, two mommies and four cousins went into Hollywood to see the stage production of Wicked at the famed Pantages Theater. Their oldest cousin had previously attended, but for the younger three this was the first time to see a performance of this magnitude. They were so excited and I don’t think Karina, the youngest at five, even moved. I did have to tap her lightly when at one point she started to hum.

I won’t admit how many times I’ve seen this play, but it grows in richness each time and like much of what we enjoy in theater, music or literature, there are deep layers of story to stimulate thought–or, as in the case of the children not quite old enough to catch those cautionary themes, just sit back and take in the music, and wonder, as Sophia questioned, “What do they use to get her to fly?”

I’m listening to my personal warnings–my own cautionary tale. About that Princeton University Press release of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm– I am really tempted. But then, how many books can one stack about the house before they become a physical threat? I DO live in California Earthquake territory.

Maybe if you share your favorite cautionary tale I’ll be distracted and forget about my Amazon wish list? Help me out, please!

An Artful New Year

We are getting along quite nicely over here. Jay is in good health following his bout with pneumonia, the hiccups haven’t returned, and we are focused on preparing for an end-of-January special occasion requiring travel.  I’ll happily share all about that later.

My to-do list feels long, but I’ve noticed the December adrenaline spike drained my battery a bit. I could plug back into high-gear if I wanted to, but I don’t think I will. Not yet anyway.

There’s no need to push, but I have many interests and some new family requests I’ll attend to–just slowly.

Sophia would like me to teach her to knit. My grandmother taught me, and at one time knitting was a creative expression I really enjoyed. I’ve been pulling out all my needles and bits of yarn and patterns and even some of the notes left behind by my grandmother. I’ve read them over and over with her handwriting bringing back warm memories. Teaching Sophia feels important to me.

And Karina has been asking me to teach her to play the piano. I taught piano and worked with children’s music for years. I play well–or I did at one time. I don’t practice any more. Why? There’s a discipline to it, I suppose. It takes time and I’ve moved away from this being a priority. I think this is the year to reinvest in my personal practice, but I’m probably mostly motivated to teach a five-year old who loves music like I do.

I can’t do it all,whatever “it” happens to be, but these are some slow-me-down interests that have reawakened.

I think if we pay attention we recognize an artistic spark that we either encourage or extinguish. I was thinking about that while at the Natural History Museum last week. I slowly ambled through a special exhibit of Iberoamerican Folk Art, enthralled with  the beautiful colors, patterns and features in over 800 works by artists from 22 Latin American countries.

It was an exhilarating experience. I enjoyed studying the extraordinarily detailed pieces of clay, wood, silver, natural fibers and textiles. Some were quite simple and reminded me of the art projects I introduced to my preschoolers. Most, however, were intricate and complex. Each represented creative expression.

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I’m not capable of anything too exciting in papier-mâché , straw weaving, woodworking or clay, but I don’t waste any time envying others’ talents. I just want to get my own fingers busy.

How about you? Do you think you’ll be making some time to let your creativity out to play a little more often in 2015? What would you like to do to get your fingers busy?


“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein

About the day before the night before Christmas…and the perils of hiccups!

I had a post half-written (in my head) and was feeling cheery and ready to host a small Christmas Eve gathering in our home the next day. Add to that eager anticipation of a full family Christmas with the shared excitement of young children–the ones who say things like, “Santa is such a nice man. I wonder if he gets the toys free from stores?” Sophia and Karina do believe in Santa, but I’ve been told they aren’t as sure about the reindeer and apparently a workshop with elves is also a bit hard to swallow.

We can’t look back and say exactly when it was clear that Jay was sick. He had a little cough and felt miserable. He was running a low-grade fever. But it was the three days of almost non-stop hiccups that became the focus. Do you go to the doctor when you have hiccups 18 out of 24 hours?

And wouldn’t you feel sick and little flushed if you hadn’t slept a full night in three days?

With much encouragement from our nurse daughter, Jay did see his doctor on Tuesday the 23rd,  and although the hiccups were a mystery to him, too, antibiotics were prescribed for a mild case of pneumonia, with simple instructions to just rest. And then the day just didn’t improve. By evening the fever was climbing, and I probably wouldn’t have encouraged a trip to the emergency room, but Aimee was beginning to get nervous about her dad’s appearance. Something wasn’t right.

And off we went…

As it turned midnight and the 23rd became the 24th, I had a flashback. December 24, 1973 I walked into a similar hospital emergency entrance to give birth to our first child. The attendant greeting me at the entrance took note of the date and said, “There’s a manger down the hall.” That was the first of many Christmas references, with Aimee born later that day and placed in a little Christmas stocking

Present day, and aren’t we glad for antibiotics? Jay was released early this morning and home in time to see his granddaughters open their presents. And sometime late yesterday afternoon those crazy hiccups finally stopped. Fingers crossed!

In all the excitement I missed the round of Christmas greetings I’d intended to share, but I have one left to give.

Earlier this week Sophia noticed one of my Spotify playlists and asked me to explain “Contemporary Christmas.” Sophia doesn’t just ask questions; she loves discussion. So that’s what we did.

The playlist included songs from current entertainment artists, but at seven, she still doesn’t know many of them by name. In an attempt to tell her what was NOT particularly contemporary, I mentioned Bing Crosby. She said she knew who he was–and by the way, he was dead. Hmmmm. Well, that would mean he wasn’t on the contemporary list. But he would have been on MY contemporary list at one time.

So we took our time talking about how the word contemporary has multiple meanings. We could be talking about “belonging to or occurring in the present” or referring to “a person or thing living or existing at the same time as another.”

At the end of an invigorating discussion Sophia turned to me with a knowing expression and summed it up. “Yeah. I understand. It’s not contemporary if the song goes all the way back to the old times, like the 70’s.”

I hope she will always love our discussions, and not be too thrown off by how hard I laugh.

Well, I go all the way back to the 70’s–at least! And I have a favorite from that era I pull out every year at this time. The artists blur the lines of contemporary. Bing Crosby wasn’t exactly my contemporary, but he’s timeless. Pairing his voice with a very 1970’s contemporary artist, David Bowie–sheer genius.

To read an interesting back story on the awkward meeting of the pair, read HERE.   And if you would enjoy going “all the way back to the 70’s” you might enjoy recalling Bing meeting Bowie at the door. Like I said, an unlikely pairing.

It’s never too late to wish peace and joy in the new year. And that’s my personal wish for each one of you. The world is made up of all sorts of unique and unlikely pairings. I’m hopeful that maybe we’ll take a bigger step towards all getting along. Peace.