Father’s Day Musings

Father's Day Musings by Rose Winters
Father’s Day Musings

As I reflect on Father’s day, I find myself thinking of how I parented my own children. I am a mom actually, not a dad, but as a parent I can say this much—I tried my best. I loved my children with all my soul as most parents do. I didn’t delve into manuals and “How to” books much. I believed motherhood and its lessons would come naturally, organically. Would it have made a difference if I had enrolled in classes, read libraries of information, taken it more seriously as something I could mess up? Perhaps. And I did mess up. Many, many times. I also hit home runs once in a while, where I said or did just the right thing. Sometimes I took advice from wise, experienced family and friends, and sometimes I took another course. Sometimes I couldn’t bear to look and I’d put blinders on. And sometimes I dove headlong into the fire for my children.

As a child I thought my dad was the most magnificent man on earth. I loved him unconditionally—I almost thought he was magic. The pendulum swung far into fairy land and rose-colored glasses. Like Mary Poppins’ measuring tape, the pendulum read, “Practically Perfect in every way!”

As a teen, I noticed every mistake he made, every grumble, every wrong step. Mind you, by then he had five of us! He came up imperfect after all, and at one point I “ran away from home” for a whole night and cried on my friend’s shoulder about my Dad, who “Didn’t care about me at all.” The pendulum swung hard the other way, into the bitter, harsh reality that my dad was not the perfect man I thought he was. The pendulum read, “You’re mean.”

When I had teens of my own, and felt the frustrations of their hormonal chaos, I remembered how I had once judged my dad. I called him and told him how wonderful he was, and how grateful I was for all his patience, grace and love over the years. The pendulum swung back where it belonged, squarely in the middle, reading “Human.”

What a relief to realize that we can in fact try and fail, try and succeed, try and fail, like the tides, and know that it is okay to be human beings. At the end of the day, we give all we have, with the very best of intentions, for the love of our children.

And so I say, to all you “Perfect,” “Mean” and “Just Plain Human” dads, have a wonderful, blessed Father’s Day, and know that you are loved.

Moving Day: Bruised and Smiling in Paradise

Moving day. Oh joy! I’m covered with bruises from head to toe and I have a mountain of boxes in the back yard. But guess what? I have a back yard! I feel pretty darned moving-boxesblessed. There are humming birds here, by the dozens. I’ve never seen that before! A cricket slipped into the house with one of the boxes–a sign of good luck.

Champions in the form of family came with their laughter, strength and incredible stamina, hauling heavy boxes, furniture and stone. (Yup, stone. My hubby deals in stone!) I was a culprit too, with my cumbersome weighted keyboards, speakers and power amps. I am, after all, a musician! Everyone left black and blue and scraped all over, christening our new haven with their beautiful presence, positive attitudes and eyes glistening with approval. It really is a lovely place. I’m so very grateful for my heroes!

Moving day is a fresh beginning. We worked hard (really, really hard,) decided exactly what we wanted in a home, took our time and found just the right place for our needs today. A spacious office for Anthony, a recording studio for my music, a sun room for my writing space and a meandering back yard filled with trees and blossoms.

This is a home for family, for parties, for tranquil breakfasts outside with musical birds–and for creativity.

The kitchen is small, but that’s a good thing. It gave me an excuse to get my mother’s hutch out of storage and fill it with my favorite dishes and glasses. Now when I open the front door I am greeted with a wave of nostalgia, seeing a piece from my childhood home in Oregon breathing life again. My dad will be thrilled when he sees the hutch—since Mom passed he is so lonely for memories of the life he had with her.

When I write, I always attempt to find a peaceful, pretty place that fills me with serenity. This garden is filled with artists’ nooks and crannies. Right now I am outside  looking at the mountain of boxes and the bruises they gave me, and I smile. The boxes are empty, my heart is full, my soul is fed. I think wonderful things are about to happen. I know they are. A cricket told me.

A New Year’s Blessing

At the end of every year I grow introspective and read through my journal from the past year. I’ve had bad years and good years. I lost my mother in May, but I would still say I’ve had an excellent year. Perhaps it was my mom’s gift to me, this year. I have learned so much, perhaps the most important lesson being, there is no expiration date on dreams.

As a child, my mom taught me that it was okay to follow my heart and my artist’s path. I never got rich, but I have a treasure trove of “Diamonds.” The technical word is “Intellectual Property,” meaning I wrote a bunch of books, songs, albums, poems… you get the picture. But I like “Diamonds” better. They mean something, these unpublished tunes and stories. They mean “I did it.” Not “I tried and failed.” I have an audience that matters. Me. I can sleep at night knowing I forged ahead and made my dreams come true.

I was responsible—I have always worked as a performer, and have made a decent living. I raised four kids on a musician’s paycheck and they were always housed, clothed and fed. They grew into wonderful, productive adults. And most importantly, they grew up kind. That makes me very proud.

My mom’s disease, Alzheimer’s, taught me the importance of balance. Unconditional love and care-taking doesn’t mean losing one’s self, if means rearranging boundaries and schedules that work for everyone. It means being selfless one moment and selfish another, so that everyone stays cared for and healthy and loved. I wrote more poignantly this past year than I had in ages, because my mother’s struggles opened my heart wider than I thought possible. I loved my mom deeper than I thought I was capable. I learned her songs from an era long gone, I learned how to make her smile and I lived to do just that. It brought me deep joy. I had to snatch at moments to write in my journal, but the passages came from a new level of my soul. I had to write music sporadically, but they were my most honest work.

Ages ago, on my 29th birthday I remember crying, thinking “It’s over! I’ll never get a record deal now that I’m over the hill!”

If I could go back in time and talk to the old (young) me, I’d have a hard time keeping a straight face. But I would be nice and simply say, “Just wait. You will never believe the adventure that’s just around the corner. You will travel the world, your mind will open, and you will know a new level of love. You will truly become an artist. Your metamorphosis will enlighten your children and help them find self-dignity and the right kind of love—-a balanced love.”

The 29 year old me would certainly ask, “But will I make it? As an artist, I mean. Will I find success?”
And I would smile enigmatically and say… “Yes.”
That is the gift my mom left me with—that I truly believe I have achieved success. I am an artist. I embrace that artist and nurture her because she deserves nurturing. I have learned to draw boundaries and make time for creation. I have learned the importance of silence, and the importance of noise. The world needs both. I need both. The introvert in me has learned to make time for life. For it is in life’s interruptions, pain, and boisterous bombastic chaos, that stories and songs unfold.
And the people-pleaser in me has learned to protect the introvert and allow her a quiet corner to put dreams to paper.

I am an artist. And I shall be until I die. And that makes me feel like the luckiest woman on earth.

Songs For Mum

As any artist can attest to, there are bound to be dry spells. This can be very disheartening. I find that even when I feel foggy and blah, if I just push through it and put my fingers on a piano or a laptop, my heart is rekindled and something is born; a song, a story, or a fresh “harebrained scheme.” So here I am, pushing through.

There’s a nip in the air and a rustle in the leaves. It’s time for a cozy sweater, a steaming cup of coffee, and writing songs and stories about home and hearth. My home and hearth are different this fall—I no longer have my mother’s sparkling eyes, a happy sigh and a clap of her hands, her “Pinch me, I can’t believe it’s you!” every time I’d come into view.

My mom had Alzheimer’s, but I was truly blessed to have her in my life, throughout it all. She sparkled until the end. Her optimism, even in the midst of a ravaging disease, still leaves me humbled. When her memory faded and then left her completely, she still loved me. The love wasn’t taken. And that was enough. That was so much. There were times when she would look at me with kind, warm eyes, trying to place me. I would kiss her soft velvety cheek and say, “It’s your little girl Rosalyn!” and rock her in my arms. She always hugged me back. I would say, with a fake English accent, “Me Mum…”
And she’d answer with an exaggerated accent, “Me dough-tah!”
Love transcends. It was okay if she didn’t remember my name. The little “Mum and Dough-tah” dialogue was an old memory, and somehow stayed with her.

The last day before she was hospitalized, we celebrated my Dad’s birthday at a park. The sun glistened upon the lake, the sky was a vibrant blue and the emerald grass seemed to glow. Everyone was there—her children, grandchildren, and her beloved husband who sat by her side holding her hand. Throughout the afternoon she watched with delight as her grandchildren blew wand bubbles for her and played. We brought her favorite music; old songs from her childhood. Music is the magic formula for Alzheimer’s, for those who don’t know; it is the last memory to fade. Mom remembered music till the end. She could barely talk, but she could sing.

Music was always a part of Mom. My earliest memories are of Mom washing the dishes and singing. Walking on the beach and singing. Driving and singing. Singing to us, singing to no one, but always, always singing, with her soft gentle English accent and her sweet pretty voice. No wonder I became a musician.

And here she was at a park all these years later, still singing, or nodding her head to the music, or smiling at a familiar tune, perhaps triggering a flash of an old memory. It was, by all accounts, a perfect day. The most alert we’d seen Mom in a long time.

Strangely, fifteen minutes after we left the park, she was rushed to the hospital, and then brought home with hospice care. Her last words were to her youngest daughter Cathy, her precious baby who traveled from Washington to be by her side. Mom was unresponsive, as Cathy said with a broken heart over and over, “You are my beautiful Momma.”

And then, Mom’s eyes opened one last time. Clear eyed and clear minded for a fleeting moment, Mom answered, “You are my beautiful.”

And then she was quiet and still. It was our turn, our loving duty, to sing to her.
We played Joan Baez’ “Diamonds and Rust.” Cathy had to leave the room to cry—that was Mom’s and Cathy’s favorite.

We played “Over the Sea to Skye” and I sang along, as Mom would have done. I remember as a young girl, Mom pushing me on our swing set, singing that song to me. I remember the sunny day, the contentment in my heart, being with my mom like that. I remember Mom saying it was written for “Bonnie Prince Charles” of old, and I visualized “The lad who’s born to be king” sailing in a great ship with sails unfurled, exhilarated.

My daughter Shannon sang songs from movies she used to watch with her dear grandma.

And, in case mom’s spirit had already left her unresponsive body, we played “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog,” so she could dance to it like she used to. It’s strange how you can laugh and grieve at the same time. It is a very cathartic thing to do.

When Mom passed, we held each other and cried. I remember saying, through my tears, “I know she had Alzheimer’s. But it was enough. It was enough for me.” There was a remnant of Mom till the end. In her smile, in her sparkle. In her music. She…was my music.

A month before Mom died, she started fidgeting with her hands. It is a natural progression of the disease. I bought her a little stuffed bear, and I’d place it in her hands so she’d have something to fidget with. Dad asked once, “What’s the name of the bear?”
I didn’t have a name, so Dad said, “How about Comfy?”
We laughed, and Comfy Bear was christened.

After Mom’s funeral we all gathered at my sister Charlotte’s house. She brought out some knickknacks and costume jewelry of Mom’s. Strangely, it was the medical alert bracelet that caught my eye. I lost the old mom years ago. But the “Loopy Mom…” the one I could hold in my arms and rock, the one that said, “Pinch me, is it really you?” just because I walked to the kitchen and back…oh how I miss her.

I took that medical alert bracelet and placed it around Comfy Bear’s neck. It sits right by my bedside, and I ache every time I look at it. It is a good ache.

Now when I look up at the sky, I see mom in the birds, I feel mom in the wind. I feel her love. Perhaps, after a long hard road, she is at last free to sail “Over the Sea to Skye.”

My Friend Dad

My dad is pretty amazing. He’s 86. He’s a cancer survivor, he’s had a double bypass and last Spring he lost his beloved wife, my beautiful mother, after a ten year bout with Alzheimer’s. And yet Dad signs up for creative writing classes, joins in world event discussion meetings, he always looks nice and keeps a sense of humor. He is passionate about animals and the environment, and I have been happily designated his travel buddy.

Still, he gets restless and blue when he stays put too long. He says the heartbreaking phrase, “I feel like I’m just sitting around waiting to die.”
That’s my cue. “Okay Dad, it’s time for another adventure.” And whether it’s a car, plane or boat, off we go.

We make great travel buddies. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from both my parents, is that everything is an adventure if you treat it as such. Whether you’re walking in a nearby park or sailing the seven seas, it’s all about the “Can Do” spirit, and finding joy in the little things.

During one of my engagements as a cruise ship entertainer, I brought my Dad, and we sailed together from Florida to Peru. We signed up for every excursion we could squeeze in!

One of my fondest memories was in Guatemala, where a Panama hat caught my dad’s eye. He placed it on his head with a chuckle and boy did he look handsome! Though well into his 80’s, all the ladies young and old commented on the dapper man on my arm.

Each night on the ship we would have a fine dinner, sitting with new friends from around the globe. Everyone enjoyed Dad’s company—as a matter of fact, he truly became somewhat of a celebrity while aboard! I would have to excuse myself at dessert and go to the piano bar to begin my three hour shift of taking requests. I would always say, “Dad, Will you be okay by yourself for a bit?” And everyone at the table would promise he’d be in good hands.
After his table-mates left, Dad would come to my show, order one snifter of brandy, and listen to every song until I had played my last note. Not a night would go by that someone wouldn’t come shake his hand, pat his shoulder or stop for a delightful chat.

Dad would request all the songs I grew up with—Impossible Dream being my favorite. That song will always and forever remind me of my dad, whose every “Impossible Dream” was made a reality by his hard work, an iron will and a “Just keep walking forward” mentality.

Sometimes Dad and I just go to the lake park a few miles away, and look at the whimsical variety of water birds and turtles. Animals always put a smile on Dad’s face. Sometimes it’s as simple as lunch overlooking the harbor, seeing the glory of the sea and the antics of the seagulls. Sometimes we pack a suitcase and take a road trip. Our last one was to Mission Bay for the night. Before that, Monterey, where Dad wanted to visit the old Cannery Row of Steinbeck fame.

One of my favorite traveling moments was in Cambria, sitting on a hotel balcony looking out into a forest and listening to frogs, who were putting on quite a show. My Dad tried to imitate them and we laughed so hard! Being silly is one of the main ingredients in the fountain of youth, I’m quite convinced.

Today though, we did something we’ve never done before. I brought Dad over for dinner and he told me that his hands had been shaking and he was feeling forgetful and uncreative. He said he’d stopped writing. I could see the great disappointment in his eyes. So I said, “Perhaps you just need a muse. I need one too. How about we write together?”
And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Dad just looked up, happy, and said, “I’m writing. I haven’t been able to write for a long time.” It is nice to have a muse, and it is perhaps even better, to be one.

Dinner’s ready. Our writing adventure is over for today, but our hearts are full. Now for our bellies—hopefully dinner will be a good adventure too!

Hello from Christchurch NZ!

Hello from beautiful, green New Zealand!

I’m in a lovely cafe in Christchurch, having one of their wonderful tarts– feta and spinach, and the Kiwis sure know how to make a melt-in-your-mouth flaky crust!

Though Christchurch was horribly damaged in the earthquake last year, the spirit of this town is undefeated. The shops that were destroyed are thriving in an incredibly creative makeshift mall made of shipping containers, painted bright colors and with glass doors and windows. There is a charm here, not even a “stiff upper lip,” but a true joyful dedication to the task at hand, of rebuilding this beautiful city. A city where the shallow Avon river ripples and shimmers as the boats glide along, with the proud captains punting in their straw hats like something out of Mary Poppins.

My show is going well. I had a wonderful standing room only crowd the other night, where passengers sat, lined up and down the stairs because the chairs were all filled! I took two solid hours of requests before taking a quick break, not to get some water, but to sign CDs. Delightful people!

My Halloween production went very well October 31st, complete with four dancers, props, a fog machine and incredible lighting! Can’t wait for the Trade show in January, where I can push my new Halloween CD!

Bye for now!

Rose

Hello from Sydney!

I’m in an Internet cafe in Sydney, Australia! The first segment of the cruise is finished, and today we set off around Australia with a new group of passengers.

The first order of business when stepping onto the magical land of Australia is to rush into the nearest cafe and ask the vital question, “Do you have any pies?”
They don’t hand you an apple pie or a cherry pie. You get a scrumptious, flaky, melt-in your mouth meat pie. Mine was beef with wine sauce. Dee-lish!

I have been going through internet withdrawal, and it took four attempts, even in the thriving metropolis of Sydney, to get proper internet. The pie shop had internet, but it was not working. The Starbucks was closed. The McDonalds, whom the locals all said to go to, had such slow internet I couldn’t Skype. The trick is, to go to an actual Internet store, pay by the hour, and get hardwired. Now I’m happy as a clam. YES the Opera House is out there, and the harbor in all its magnificence, but when you’ve been away a month like I have, the most precious thing of all is “Hi everybody! I’m alive and well– how about you?” And catching up on all the stuff. So I say a very warm “G’Day” to all of you, and I’m going to get back to Skype. “See” you at the next port!

Hello from Honolulu!

Sitting at the Bikini Cafe at the Aloha Tower in Hopnolulu! I just went for an awesome submarine ride, saw sunken ships and airplanes, parrot fish, barracudas, and my favorite, humuhumu nukunuku apua a! Theyr’e so cute! But they also bite!

I’ve had a wonderful crowd aboard the Sea Princess, sometimes standing room only! I’m also teaching a choir, and they’re doing such a great job!

Kawaii tomorrow! For now, back to my $2 taco! Good stuff!

Mastering a CD in a hotel!

Eight days until I sail out of San Francisco! That means eight days to finish my CD!

As life would have it, we have moved out of one home, and will be moving into a new one in May, when I return. And so I find myself in a hotel, surrounded by my stripped-down recording studio, my keyboard, and a cup of coffee, with a looming deadline– I can’t bring my studio on board the Sea Princess! My husband is in Europe right now, which means– one: I MISS YOU ANTHONY!!! and two: I can work to the wee hours without keeping him awake.

I’ve managed to do my master mixes with no complaints by the other hotel guests, but today I need to sing some vocals. I wonder what my neighbors will think? When I’m singing through headphones, all they will hear is my voice, “tra-la-la”-ing through the halls! I have often said, “If you can’t find a hammer, use a rock.” And so I say to all out there, “Yes you CAN record an album in a hotel room.” One of my speakers is hanging over the kitchen sink, the other is propped up by a box of CDs on a dresser. Just thought you’d like a visual– it’s quite funny!

Well, if I can record an album in a hotel room, I think I can do just about anything. Today I will be singing a tune I’ve written called “Howling at the Moon.” In case you’re wondering, I’m recording a (not just for) Halloween album! Complete with a sassy version of Monster Mash, Spooky, Werewolves of London, Jar of Hearts, I Put a Spell on you, and four of my originals. I made a video of “Mr. Bag o Bones”– check out the extended version on my video page, or you can see the shorter video on my Rose Winters youtube channel.

Okay, enough chatting, I have three more songs to finish, and eight days left, and somewhere in there I need to pack for my three month trip to the South Seas!

Thanks for tuning in, I’m very grateful that you’re here on my web page! Feel free to send me an email on my contact page, I’d love to say “hey!” XO