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Famous Older Siblings

Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash

Did you know they were here first?

Beyonce

Beyonce is the older sister to her sibling, Solange.  Difficult though it is to believe, Queen Bey is already forty and starting off her best decade ever.  She is the mother of three and rocks her marriage to rap star Jay-Z.  Her talent and style have boosted earnings that bring her fifty percent of the way to billionaire status. 

Justin Bieber

Canadian singer Justin Bieber is not yet thirty but is known worldwide for his talent and escapades.  He has settled into marriage and is the oldest sibling of three other children.  He was banned from performing in China due to image issues yet has attained the status of being one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. 

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is the older sister to her sibling and brother, Austin.  She became a famous country singer at the age of 16, but the success of her career led to her early music catalog being appropriated and sold by a talent manager who prevented her from performing her own work.  Despite the setback, Taylor has re-recorded the music and continues strong into her 30s.

Sources Consulted:

Mulshine, Molly.  18 Celebrities that are the oldest sibling in their family.  September 10, 2018.  Accessed January 18, 2022, at Celebrities Who Are the Oldest Child (insider.com)

Wikipedia.  Beyonce.  Accessed January 18, 2022, at Beyoncé – Wikipedia

Wikipedia.  Justin Bieber.  Accessed January 18, 2022, at Justin Bieber – Wikipedia

Wikipedia.  Taylor Swift.  Accessed January 18, 2022, at Taylor Swift – Wikipedia  

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Camel Facts

Photo by Mohamed Hashif on Unsplash

Today’s brief post presents facts about the fascinating desert dweller, the camel.

A camel’s humps are composed of fat, which sustains the animal through long treks and harsh desert living conditions. As a camel draws on its fat during lean times, the humps shrink in appearance. When food and water are restored, the camel’s humps regenerate.

A camel’s long eyelashes prevent sand, grit, and insects from getting into their eyes, especially during windy conditions. Camels have two sets of eyelashes, consisting of keratin, a protein similar in composition to the material of human hair and fingernails.

Camels have a life span of 40 to 50 years, depending upon their species and whether or not they are living in captivity. Since camels subsist on plants and water in the wild, they are fed these same items when held in captivity.

Camels are beautiful and majestic animals, capable of thriving in challenging and arid conditions.

Sources consulted:

Dejan, The Daily Wildlife, June 12, 2021. 5 Amazing Facts About Camel Eyelashes. Accessed January 17, 2022, at https://thedailywildlife.com/camel-eyelashes-facts/Sources consulted:

How Long Do Animals Live – How Long Do Camels Live? Accessed January 17, 2022, at https://howlongdolive.com/camels-lifespan/

Kaminsky, A. All Things Nature – What Purpose Do Camels’ Humps Serve? Accessed January 17, 2022, at https://www.allthingsnature.org/what-purpose-do-camels-humps-serve.htm

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Enjoyment

Photo by Margarida Afonso on Unsplash

Today was nothing special, and that is what is special about it.

One of my goals for the year is a personal mantra, and that is, “Use up what you have.”  By this, I mean using up all the material goods I have accumulated at home.

Many of us here have hobbies, and mine is knitting and crocheting.  I have been sorting and using up the yarn that I already have at home and am not buying any more.  This afternoon, I crocheted a few granny squares for a blanket and began making a striped scarf.  I left the television on in the background, and while I crocheted, I watched “Legally Blonde” and then, part of the movie “Knives Out”, which was a murder mystery.  I didn’t see it through to the end but will watch it another time.

As I crocheted, I thought, “I never took the time to just relax and do this.”  I was always busy with work in New York City.  I would collect knitting and crocheting magazines and books from Barnes and Noble on my lunch breaks, then didn’t enjoy using them because I was too tired and stressed at the end of the day.

I still work but working from home is a lot less stressful – at least it is, for me.  When work is done, I am done.

I didn’t sit around all day, however.  I made sure to do my indoor walking as it’s freezing cold here.  I also toted the groceries in from the delivery service.  I made sure there’s a pallet of water on hand which goes in tandem with the walking and good health, in general.

So, as you can read in this post, there is nothing exceptional that happened in the day, but it was a day to relax and enjoy life.  I appreciate focusing on these simple pleasures as they renew and recharge me for the week ahead.

I hope you will take the time to enjoy and relax, as well.

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Aaron Copland’s Birthday Celebration

Photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash

Over the years I’ve performed in many concerts, but there is one I’ll never forget. 

While I was in high school, I rehearsed and performed with a student orchestra that was conducted by a musician from the New York Philharmonic.  Some of the students who participated were his students, but most of us, like me, were required to audition to participate.  Over the course of two years, the conductor brought other musicians from the Philharmonic to rehearse or play concerts with us.

On one occasion, the conductor invited the composer Aaron Copland to attend a concert we were staging, which honored him by celebrating his birthday. It was a thrill when he accepted and sat in the front row of the auditorium to watch the performance.

The last piece that we were going to perform that day was the “Hoedown” from Copland’s Rodeo Suite.  Mr. Copland indicated that he wanted to conduct the orchestra and took the stage.

The conductor handed the baton to Mr. Copland, but wanting to perform under Mr. Copland himself, he took an instrument from one of the musicians already seated, rushing that unfortunate musician off the stage.  It prevented that student from participating in the remainder of the concert.

The next thing that happened was that in the middle of playing, one of the percussionists accidentally dropped a cymbal on the floor.  Mr. Copland took it in stride, looking up at us and smiling.  The sound of the cymbal crash was awful because it did not drop flat on the floor.  Instead, it rolled around on the floor like the top of a metal garbage can spinning like a hula-hoop before it came to rest.

Despite these two unfortunate incidents, the orchestra had a great time.  On the drive home, my father mentioned that the conductor shouldn’t have told one of the students to leave the stage.  “That looked very bad to the audience,” he said.  We laughed about the cymbal drop, though.  I told dad that Mr. Copland was okay with it.

The following week when I went to rehearsal, we had a new conductor and a gentleman responsible for the administration of the orchestra came to speak to us about what happened.  He said, “We don’t agree about what the conductor did in asking a student to leave the stage.  We also realize that dropping the cymbal was an accident because we all saw what happened.  No students are being asked to leave the orchestra.”

It was two months until graduation, and the rest of our rehearsals passed without incident.  It took another three years of work and auditions in college, to participate in my next orchestra.

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Tough Love

Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

I’ve been having a series of conversations with my brother over the past few weeks. This is unusual for us, as he does his own thing in the southwest, and I do my own thing here, back east. However, it’s at the key moments when we have our pow-wows or invent silly inside jokes.

Sometimes it’s tough on us, too.

When our father died, for instance, we had to navigate the ugly, messy waters with my now former stepmother. There is nothing that I want to recall about that event but one thing that still makes me laugh is how my brother and I came up with the slogan, “Go Team!” whenever we had to deal with a terrible moment. He would even punch his fist in the air, yell, “Go Team!” and I’d dissolve into a pile of laughter, and tears, at the same time.

If I remember my dad’s funeral, it’s like watching a slide show or PowerPoint presentation in my head. There are certain bullet points that stand out. The moment I remember most of all, was when I was in front of the congregation, paralyzed in fear before speaking. My brother pressed his hand into the small of my back and whispered, “Go,” giving me the small push forward I needed to walk up to the podium.

My grief now turns toward my nephew. He’s been great and has made it through Covid-19 better than most. He faced leaving school in the middle of his last semester of college, finishing the last two months at home and graduating, online, with his fellow classmates. Me losing my New York City employment was a loss, but I could not imagine losing my last semester of senior year in college.

What has been concerning, is that my nephew has not at all taken the initiative to work, full time. My brother and I are coming to the bitter conclusion that he is brilliant but lazy. He will make any excuse not to go out and get full-time employment. He has part-time work, but barely enough to pay for extras, like gas for the car and a burger out. He’s currently living with his mother, and from what we can tell, he’s not paying her any rent or living expenses.

I think my last straw with my nephew was when we talked about what he wanted for Christmas. He asked me for a $300.00 gift and I told him that was out of my price range. A few days later, he texted that he was considering a few small things, and then hit me up for a $170.00 gift.

I’m not a cheap person, but I did not spend on myself this Christmas. I took the “extra” money I had, which I spread over two months, and gave it to the people who took care of me this year. That would be the hairdresser who made house calls when I was housebound after my accident. The superintendent and porter of the building I live in. The postman who delivers my mail. The garage attendants who have watched over my car when I haven’t been able to take the walk to check that that car is clean and running. I call these people my people, and know need to be taken care of because they go out of their way to take care of so many other people besides me.

So, hearing my nephew ask for an expensive present when he hasn’t worked and could afford or save up for a $170.00 item for himself if he did, set me on edge. I spoke to my brother about it, and the excuse my nephew is currently giving for not applying for work is that he is going to grad school in a few months.

That may be, and that may not be, but the truth is, he can still work a forty-hour week, even if it’s in retail or hospitality, while he’s waiting to go to school.

I called up my nephew and discussed with him my path to grad school and beyond. No one in my family paid for my grad school education. I worked full time and applied to grad school at night. I attended fourteen months of classes at night before grad school, to qualify for entry, while I continued to work full time. Then – I went to grad school at night and continued to work full time during the day. I took out a student loan and started paying it off from the first month of school because I could, through work.

When I relayed this information to my nephew, he said, “That’s a nice story.”

What?!!! In that snide comment, he dismissed three years and two months of the most relevant years of my life. I’ll admit it, I wanted to smack him in the head.

I then said, “You need to get up in the morning, get your ass out of bed, and get to work.”

After this episode, I did what I always do, which is, research something when I don’t know how to cope with or deal with it. Most of the advice I read stated a theme and variation of the following idea: “If someone is financially irresponsible, then cut them off.”

I’m not in the position to cut off my nephew as I am not responsible for his immediate welfare, but I am in the position to cut off buying expensive gifts when they are not warranted.

Featured

Gratitude

Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

I remind myself that I am glad to be alive, even when things are at their worst, as they are now.

I am glad for the mundane tasks, such as taking the garbage to the recycling bin, and for the time it takes to do the dishes in the sink.

I’m grateful that when I wake up in the morning, I have time to do morning stretches and to contemplate heading into the kitchen to make breakfast.  Lately, breakfast has been the same plain bagel with cream cheese. I’m grateful for the kind, hard-working people who deliver groceries.  They help me, and I don’t have to go out in the cold weather to shop.

I am grateful that I have three orchid plants sitting on my kitchen windowsill, and that all three, in the dead of winter, are choosing this exact moment to sprout blooms.  I’m grateful for the cactus plant growing taller, every day.  I love how it feels when I take a pitcher to water the plants, so they’ll grow, even more.  I feel like I am nurturing my babies.

It has been so quiet, with everyone hibernating in their own apartments.  The only sound I hear is the traffic driving by outside, and the clunk of the steam radiator as it churns out its heat.  I realize it’s a luxury to have heat and to stay warm when it’s thirteen degrees outside.  I have a bed, blankets, and fluffy pillows for comfort.

I have realized that even a pen and a piece of paper are worth gold, in being able to release thoughts to share with others.   A pen, a piece of paper, an envelope, and a stamp are all it takes to make another person’s day. 

I appreciate the love of others and the opportunity to love them back.  Even if we are all at home now, with not much to report, just checking in with a phone call is life-affirming.

May you find gratitude every day, in all your circumstances.

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Meal Planning

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Monday is becoming my default shopping and meal planning day.  With Covid-19 numbers skyrocketing, I have been ordering food for delivery from Target instead of hustling to the supermarket during the weekend, when it’s crowded, and where everyone has been handling the items that are stocked.

Trust me, the last time I shopped in person was a few weeks ago, on the day I received my booster vaccination.  As I waited, I saw a gentleman pawing every single piece of produce on the shelf, as though he owned the store.  I thought, “It’s a good thing I don’t want any avocados right now.” I didn’t see guacamole in my future that day.

I keep things very simple, and very inexpensive, in meal planning.  The big-ticket item that I buy for the week is organic chicken breasts, in a two-pound package.  The organic chicken tastes better than regular chicken and cooks in a flash.  I keep the following ingredients on hand:  onions, garlic, lemons, limes, rice, frozen vegetables, fresh carrots, celery, and spices.  I also keep a few cans of tomatoes and tomato paste.  With those ingredients, it’s easy enough to make a chicken dish or a vegetable stir-fry for a few lunches and dinners.

To avoid boredom in taste, I don’t repeat a recipe twice in a row, even if I love it.  I’ve been making a hobby of borrowing cookbooks online from the library and downloading them on the e-reader. 

This past week, I made a Rachel Ray chicken recipe from a borrowed library book, and then a second chicken recipe from one of the cooking magazines I’ve saved.  I have stopped purchasing books, and most of all cookbooks.  Pre-Covid, I pared down the old, unused cookbooks from my kitchen shelf, and donated them to the local library.

I keep a running shopping list, and when I’m out of an item, it goes on the list.  After doing this for a few months, I know exactly what to order every week.  The only extras are ingredients I may not already have on hand, for a new recipe I’m making that week.

The biggest benefit of weekly shopping and planning ahead is that I no longer worry about what I’m having or making to eat that day.  This is a time-saver when working from home.  I don’t have to leave home for takeout food or need to order it in, which becomes expensive with tax and delivery fees.  I heat up lunch and in 10 minutes I’m sitting down to food that tastes better than any takeout, which often arrives cold by the time it’s delivered.

Cheers to continuing healthy food preparation and eating habits!

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10,000 Steps a Day

Stock Photo by burst.shopify.com

10,000 steps a day equals five miles!

Since recovering from a personal injury a few months ago, I have been working up to walking 10,000 steps a day.  I could not do so right away, but by the holidays, reached this goal five times between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

If you are out of shape, haven’t walked in a while, or like me, recovering from an accident, the best advice I can impart is to begin where you are.  If 2,500 steps are a stretch, repeat 2,500 for the next two days, move on to 3,000 steps for two days after that, and try to add on another 500 steps per day.  Eventually, you will reach 10,000.

After the first week or so, you may find that you’re able to do far more than you thought you could and will naturally add on your own volume of steps.

The winter weather makes it a challenge to meet the 10,000 steps, but I have worked around it.  I take 10-minute walks inside of my apartment, where the space is large enough between the front door, living room, and sunroom.  I walk back and forth between these three areas, and 10 minutes elapse before I know it.  I have sometimes stretched this out to 15 or 20 minutes, depending on the time of day and how many steps I have left to achieve.

Today I’ve walked a combination of inside and outside.  Tomorrow will be entirely indoors as NY is expecting another winter storm, which will progress from snow to icy rain for most of the day.

I’ve experienced the following in walking, even if only for a 10-minute sprint:

  1. I feel energized.  Getting up and away from the laptop for a few minutes during a workday refreshes my mind and I feel ready to go back after a mini break.
  • I’m burning more calories.  I didn’t spring for a $200. Fitbit fitness tracker but headed to Amazon to purchase an inexpensive one, for $40.00.  It measures everything I want, comparable to the Fitbit.  I also have the peace of mind knowing that if the tracker breaks, a $40.00 loss is sweeter than a $200.00 loss.
  • I’m not stressed.  I feel relaxed after a brief walk, and the fitness tracker display states “relaxed.”  Reading the word “relaxed” in fine print after a walk is priceless.

Step into your sneakers, lace them up, and get moving!

Photo Credit: burst.shopify.com, accessed January 8, 2022, at:
https://burst.shopify.com/photos/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=Walking

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My First Audition

A Father’s Love and Support

When I was turning fourteen years old, my father brought me to what was the first of many flute auditions I took over the span of my musical life. For this first audition, my father did not tell me what I would be doing, only that he was taking my brother and me out of school for a day the following week, and that I needed to bring my flute and some music with me to the city.

My father never missed work, and he never took me out of school, but since he acted like this was a normal request, I didn’t think anything of it. If my father said it was okay, it was okay. Looking back, I appreciate that he acted like nothing important was happening.

I already had a flute teacher named Helga, who worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She gave me two tickets to the King Tutankhamun exhibit, which were impossible to get. On the day my father took me and my brother to the museum, he handed his ticket to my brother and told us both to go in. That was how my father was. He wanted us to have the experiences he didn’t have when he was growing up.

On the day of the audition, my father took me and my brother upstairs to one of the music school’s offices. A kind woman opened the door to the office, and she stepped out. Her name was Terry, and little did I know on that day that years later, Terry would call me to join a local orchestra where I performed for many years.

I walked into the office, and an older woman was seated at a desk. She asked my name and asked what I was going to play that morning. I chose the Bach sonata in C major, which was one of the few pieces I knew how to play at that time. It was only a few minutes, after which they only smiled and said “Thank you.”

Terry escorted me to the hallway and spoke briefly with my father. I don’t remember what they said, and I don’t remember traveling home that day.

A few weeks later, my father brought me into the city and let me know that I would be going to music school every Saturday for lessons. He taught me how to take the Metro-North commuter train and the bus from the train station, the M104. The M104 took me through Times Square all the way up Broadway to the school, which was a 45-minute ride. This was back in the day, in the late 1970s when the crime was rampant and Times Square was filled with porn theaters, prostitutes, and pimps.

Just before my father died, I asked him what possessed him to let me go to the city on my own, knowing how crazy the city was back then. He said, “I had to learn how to trust you. You were doing well in school and knew how to behave. I knew you would be okay.”

One evening when I was setting up my music stand and flute at rehearsal, Terry said, “Your father believed in your talent. He had to leave work the day he brought you to audition. He couldn’t get anyone to look after you or your brother that day after school, so that’s why he took the both of you out of school that day.”

Although there were many complicated aspects to my relationship with my father, I will never forget that he supported and encouraged my musical talent and development over a lifetime.

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The Covid Next Door

One of my best friends has Covid.

The only thing comforting to say is “one of my best friends,” in being fortunate to have more than one good friend, and in realizing, no one else we know has Covid right now.

She lives in my apartment building, and we have been friends for several years. Over time, her family has become my de facto family. Our fathers died within six months of each other. We have cooked for each other, celebrated holidays together, and have mourned the deaths of other neighbors and friends, pre-Covid.

The punishment of this disease, besides the obvious punishment of being ill and perhaps dropping dead, is that when I want to go to my friend to provide her with practical comfort and help, I can’t. She doesn’t want me or anyone else to visit, for the obvious fact of risk, and self-preservation kicks in because I don’t want to become ill myself. I call my friend to ask her what she wants or needs so that I can leave it at her front door. So far, I have delivered bottled water, diet cola, salad, a chicken dinner, almonds, and Neutrogena Hydro Boost whipped body balm as the inside of the apartment building is roasting like a coal-fired pizza oven.

I ordered extra cat food on Amazon so no one needs to leave the building to shop again this week.

She has kept her family at bay and out of her apartment since testing positive a few days ago. They want to come home and carry on as though things are normal, which they aren’t.

A few weeks ago, she asked me to meet for lunch and I told her no. I said, “I need to be selfish now, after being in the hospital for my accident, and am not seeing anyone in person for social events.” I have spoken to her and to our other friends on the phone at length, in lieu of the lunches, dinners, and celebrations we used to enjoy.

No one knows how or when this scourge will end but for now, I refuse to give in to despair and will continue to help my friend in any way possible.

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Happy New Year!

Dear All,

I am sorry that I was away from posting on this blog for most of 2021. I was settling back into my full-time return to New York, and what limited writing I did, was posted to the Medium website.

I will be resuming posting here in 2022 and coming back strong.

I was on vacation during the past week and used it as a time of self-reflection and renewal. My personal theme for the year will be creativity and my slogan for the year is “Declutter, clip, and shave.” It feels good to toss papers and materials I am no longer using. I am also recycling the books I’ve read and no longer wish to hold on to.

I don’t set resolutions but have been setting things in motion. I am striving for 10,000 steps per day for fitness, in addition to the 27-pound weight loss of the past six months. I’ll continue that for the new year.

I also like to set a goal of reading 100 books a year. I read 83 books in 2021 and was pleased with it as an accident this past September sidelined most energy and activity.

I wish everyone here an excellent New Year, filled with health, love, peace, prosperity, happiness, and creativity.

Yve

How I Get My Writing Ideas

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

In the spirit of creativity, I thought it would be interesting to share how I get my writing ideas.

I read every day. Sometimes, my ideas will come from newspaper articles, and other times, from writing challenges posted by others. For the past few days, I’ve been submitting responses to writing challenges on the website, Medium. 

I also like to share interesting articles from other writers via Twitter.  I view this as marketing and promotion. There are a lot of great articles written by so many wonderful writers.

It’s impossible to read through everything I bookmark and save, but I read a few items per day to share. I don’t use the promotion as a source for my ideas. I read the articles for the level of writing and structure of their contents.

Lately, many of my ideas are from when I was a musician.  Since music has been a part of my life from childhood onward, it’s a topic which I’ll never be able to exhaust.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic prompted me to create this blog as an outlet to avoid feeling isolated, and it was a way to cope with the upheaval of job loss and relocation. I no longer focus on those initial events but acknowledge that Covid-19 still has an impact on my writing and my decision-making, every day.

My fiction reading influences what I would like to write, but I haven’t done so yet.  I’m happy if the story involves a cowboy, a ranch, and Christmas.  I’d write a book called “Cowboy Christmas Surprise” if I could, but that’s already been written by someone else. The book’s title is “The Cowboy’s Christmas Surprise”, written by Harlequin romance author Marie Ferrarella. 

I also like fiction set on the beach, in a beach house, or at a summer resort.  That’s funny because I am not a fan of going to the beach. I hate the feeling of gritty sand in towels and bathing suits but love the ocean and swimming.

Although I write about relationships and family relationships, I’m reluctant to do so. It feels personal, which it is, but I hit “publish” anyway.  I’ve been told I write about relationships with insight, but I think, no more insight than any of the rest of us, as we all have and experience relationships in one form or another.

So – this is where all of the writing ideas come from. Sometimes it’s easy-peasy, and most of the time, it’s a leap of faith.

I look forward to writing for as long as possible.

Podcasting

Photo by Malte Helmhold on Unsplash

I spent this afternoon taking a leap of faith: setting up my first podcast, which can be found on Spotify under my name, Yve Laran.

I’ve recorded and shared a few episodes and will continue recording further to create the catalog of material.

It felt strange to record my voice, at first. I’m not used to listening to the sound of my own voice, and I haven’t read anything out loud, in a long time. It’s an interesting experience and the professional readers for books on Audible deserve kudos. Stumbling over reading a single word can throw off an entire segment of the recording.

After recording for a while, it becomes easier to read at a relaxed pace. It involves learning to breathe in between the sentences, and to know when to pause or change the voice for dramatic effect. My blog posts tend not to be dramatic, but a few posts deal with emotional issues and reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s strange and sad to realize that stories regarding the pandemic are as relevant now as they were almost three years ago. The volume of cases is far worse but the concerns remain the same. We want to avoid becoming ill, and we want to offset the loneliness and boredom that can occur during self-isolation. I have been offsetting the boredom through writing, and the beginning of podcasting is another creative outlet to keep the mind engaged.

Feel free to share if you have your own podcast, as I’d love to listen.

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