Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sixty is NOT the New Fifty

me in 1956
Today I turn sixty. News media have bandied about that sixty is the new fifty (or forty or even thirty, in some extremely optimistic articles)! I think they have it all wrong. There are some things I could do in my younger years that don't work out so well for me now. For the most part, they are insignificant: trying to stay awake after two alcoholic beverages (or after 10:30, with or without alcohol), stepping off a curb incorrectly and feeling it in my back the next day, or being able to sleep all the way through the night. On the other hand, I didn't have certain life experiences back then - the ones that enable me today to deal with difficult people and tough situations, and help me treasure all the good things that have come my way. I have enjoyed each decade of my life so far - some more than others - and can truly say I wouldn't want to go back to my thirties or forties even if it was possible to do so. I love my life right now, and am more than grateful for the man who has shared it with me for the past thirty-seven plus years.

Sixty is just a number. Do I think it is a different sixty than my mother or grandmothers experienced? Of course. In many ways my life is much easier than it ever was for my ancestors. Modern conveniences have made it so that much less time is spent on mundane chores like laundry, cooking and cleaning. Changes in transportation and technology make it possible to connect much more easily and quickly with our family and friends. I certainly have more leisure time than my grandmothers ever had.

registering students to vote 1974
Why do we make so much out of certain birthdays? Thirteen seemed magical to me because I was finally a teenager. At sixteen I could drive a car, though in our one-car family that didn't happen very often. It was also when I got my first job (outside of baby-sitting for $.50 an hour) as a waitress at the long-forgotten Kings Food Host. Receiving the minimum wage of $1.60 an hour seemed huge at the time. When I turned eighteen I registered to vote, and due to my early birthday became a registrar so that I could sign up my fellow senior class members at the high school. I could also legally drink because that was the law in Iowa at the time. I guess that took away some of the excitement of turning twenty-one.

But what about the birthdays after the much touted "21"? They all seemed to pass in a blur. College graduation, marriage, moves, graduate school, jobs, raising children and starting new businesses mark the passage of time. Like pages from those little flip books we used to make as kids, images fly through my mind. From a newly-made family of two who became a family of four, we returned to a family of two when our children followed in our footsteps, going to college and then taking jobs far from home. Life happens.

As I continue to travel down life's highway at my new speed limit of 60, here are my takeaways from the first 59 years of living:
  • You have to love yourself before you can truly love others.
  • Life can be difficult, but if it was easy we would never appreciate the good things that come along.
  • Most things we worry about never come to fruition.
  • Take the dream trip. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
  • Ditch the negative people. They will only bring you down. You can rarely raise them up.
  • Try new things. They keep your brain sharp and expose you to new people.
  • Most importantly, find (and keep) your sense of humor.
Age is an attitude, not a number that defines us. Sixty is just sixty - and that is fine with me.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Shooting the Dead

Bellefontaine Cemetery
The Women in Focus group that I belong to met at the Bellefontaine Cemetery Sunday afternoon to take some photos. The cemetery was established in 1849 on what was then 138 acres in rural St. Louis County, fortuitously right before the great cholera epidemic that hit the city in June of that same year. It became the first rural cemetery west of the Mississippi River. Today the cemetery sits on 314 acres and is the final resting place for over 87,000 people, including many of the Who's Who of St. Louis history.

With its park-like setting, the cemetery hosts many events throughout the year, such as the Beer Baron Tour, where you can view the tombs and graves of the men who made St. Louis famous for its beer. You can sample some wares as well. On this particular Sunday there was a yoga class as well as a walking tour taking place on the grounds.

Seven of us showed up for this event, which isn't too bad for a busy fall weekend. The leaf colors have not been too dramatic so far this season, and since this is my favorite time of year I have been somewhat disappointed. But the cemetery quickly lifted my spirits. Ha! There was beautiful color on the trees, as well as some summer flowers that are taking advantage of our mild fall. We certainly enjoyed the nice weather as we walked around the cemetery taking photos and talking about the different stones we came upon. It is so nice to be affiliated with a group of like-minded women sharing our passion for photography.

Bellefontaine Cemetery
Bellefontaine Cemetery

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Josh Groban Stages Tour

Josh Groban concert was sold out
Monday night I celebrated my upcoming birthday a little early as my husband gave me a ticket to see Josh Groban at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis. I have followed the career of this extremely talented young man since he appeared on the Rosie O'Donnell show in 1999 at the ripe old age of seventeen. His music reaches inside of me and plays my emotions like the strings of a classical guitar. It doesn't matter what song he sings, or what language he performs it in. I don't need to know the words because I can understand the feeling through the timbre of his voice. Despite owning quite a bit of his music, I have never seen him in concert. I don't really enjoy going to concerts in large venues because generally let alone not being able to see the performer, you usually cannot hear very well either. So when I heard that he was coming to the Peabody Opera House, which seats 3,500 and was renovated in 2011 with acoustics in mind, I felt like this was an opportunity not to be missed.

Jim would have been willing to come to the concert with me, though this is not the kind of music he listens to himself. But he would have gone for me. After all, he did stand in line at the Fox Theatre many years ago to purchase two tickets to Barry Manilow for my Christmas gift. As he says, it was him and all the gay guys there buying tickets on the biggest football Sunday of the year. (He later admitted that Barry did put on a good show.)

But luck was on his side this time because a friend of mine also wanted to see Josh's concert, so I sat online the second tickets became available and tried to buy two. I have never been to show at the Peabody, but the reviews pointed out the the balcony seats were quite tight. My friend has a bad knee, so I knew sitting upstairs was out of the question. However, the only decent (in my definition) seats on the main floor were in the VIP sections. There were two classifications of VIP - one that included a pre-event dinner, special lanyard, some souvenir items, and a download of the new "Stages" CD, and a second that included all of the above plus a meet and greet with Josh and tickets in the first five rows of the theater. As the tickets for that designation were nearly double the non-meet and greet tickets, we decided we didn't need to meet Josh in person. I got us two tickets in the eighth row, left center section, with the bonus of them being the two end seats so my friend could stretch out her leg in the aisle if need be. That was back in April.

one of Josh Groban's trucks
It seemed as though October 19th would never arrive, but suddenly it was here. As it turned out, my friend had surgery on her knee just last Thursday, so with her handicap hang tag in hand, I was able to score a parking spot at a handicap meter directly across the street from the Peabody. And it was free! When does that ever happen? It had been a worry to me, wondering where I would park so she didn't have to walk too far. The VIP check-in was very slick, and I ran our goodies back to my car so we didn't have to schlep them around the whole night. We received a welcome beverage, and made our way inside for the buffet. It was nothing stellar, but it was adequate I suppose. They had a cash bar, which we didn't imbibe in, and water and lemonade for the non-drinkers. There was a fun little custard dish for dessert. And, of course, some photo ops with posters of Josh (for those of us who did not buck up for the meet and greet.)

me with Josh Groban
the gifts

We chatted a bit with our table mates while waiting for the doors to the theater to open. One couple was from Germantown, Illinois, home of St. Louis Cardinals great Red Schoendienst. The rest of our table consisted of two young women from Lawrence, Kansas. The gals had the super VIP tickets and their seats were in row AAA. That put them right up next to the stage, as the orchestra would not be playing in the pit area so they were able to add extra rows of seats. I was running a tally in my head - tickets+driving expenses+hotel+meals+all the items they bought at the merchandise table = one huge bill to see Josh. I got the impression they have been to several of his concerts. But they were all giddy when they got back to our table following the meet and greet. They were able to chat with him for a couple of minutes prior to having a picture taken by Josh's staff. No selfies or other cameras were allowed at the meet and greet. Instead, the meet and greeters had to go to a website to download their photo later.

St. Louis, King of France near ceiling
When we finally took our seats, I was able to look around the theater for the first time. While it is quite pretty, it is hard for me not to compare it to the Fox Theatre. I love the intimacy of it, though, and I wish I would have taken time before the show to check out the art deco motif of the lower level of the building. We had entered through special VIP door, so I only caught a glimpse of the lower level on our way out when it was packed with concert-goers. Or concert-leavers, as was the case.

As for the show itself, it was every bit as good as I was anticipating. Josh is very comfortable with the audience, and he is actually quite funny. He humbly credits most of his success to his supportive family and the music and theater teachers he was exposed to in school. A majority of the musicians were from St. Louis, and the Webster University Chamber Choir sang with him on a couple of songs. I love that he turned to local talent for his show. Additionally, Tony award winner Lena Hall is accompanying him on this concert tour. She sang several duets with Josh, and then belted out a couple of tunes on her own. From start to finish, the concert was first class.

Music may fill our lives, but Josh Groban's music fills our hearts. You can quote me on that.

Josh Groban & Lena Hall

Josh Groban

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall in St. Louis

Cascading Mums
Fall is definitely my favorite season. The glorious colors, along with my birthday and Halloween, combine to make October an enchanting month. I like to get out for a drive at least once a week to enjoy nature's ever-changing tapestry.

Since my husband was riding his motorcycle on Saturday, I did some work around the house and then found a place to play pickleball in the afternoon. At the last minute some friends came over to watch the Cardinals post-season baseball game with us. (Or perhaps I should just call it the Cubs game, since they were the ones who actually seemed to show up to play ball Saturday night.)

Sunday we went to the Missouri Botanical Garden to take both a walk and some photographs. It is so awesome that we have many of the same interests as a couple. While there was some fall color starting to sprout at the garden, we are still probably a week or two away from seeing significant fall foliage. The early fall flowers and the last of the summer blooms sure put on an amazing show, however.

Quill Garden Mum
Cardinal Flower

Fall Crocus

After the garden, we took a drive through Tower Grove Park thinking that maybe some of the Sugar Maples would have begun to turn colors. That was not the case, so we'll add the park back onto our agenda next time we go to visit the botanical garden. From there we headed to the Cortex Innovation Community, a project that SWT Design is involved in. After all, Cortex is where it's at - ha, ha! Seriously, Cortex is a 200-acre innovation and technology hub located near the Central West End and Grove neighborhoods of St. Louis. Jim's firm was and is involved in the site master planning. It will be fun to follow the project as the plant material fills in and the area around the site is cleaned up. A concert is being held on the grounds next week, so if we are free we will try to get over there to take some photographs. In the meantime, I have to share this one since we took Jim's baby out of the garage and traveled in style on Sunday.

Porsche - there is no substitute

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Last Train to Clarksville?

Senate Theatre
On Friday I attended a funeral in Elsberry, Missouri. Following the Mass, I had lunch with my sister and brother-in-law before exploring this small community of around 2,500 residents. Elsberry was platted in 1871, and has a tidy little main street. As I was photographing the movie theater, the owner came out and asked if I would like to see the inside of the building. Though it was built in 1911, the Senate Theatre was heavily damaged by a fire in January of 2011. The original floor is still in place, but most everything else had to be replaced. The town rallied to help the owners rebuild and reopen. Robert Sinnett and his wife have owned the theater since 1974. The day I was visiting they were waiting for a school group to arrive. How wonderful that they are keeping this old piece of history alive.

Senate Theatre interior
Clarksville, MO
Continuing north on Highway 79, I arrived at the town of Clarksville. My husband has been there several times while out riding his motorcycle, and told me it was a pretty little river town. Since I was so close, I decided to check it out. This tiny town of fewer than 500 people has had its share of floods. But the residents are determined to make the best of the situation. While I was there, Mayor Jo Anne Smiley came up and introduced herself to me. (You just have to love small town Missouri!) She talked about the different festivals and events that the town puts on, and I was amazed. I would love to go and visit there for Eagle Days.

Clarksville train
As a train came down the track, I couldn't help but begin to hum the old Monkees tune. "Take the last train to Clarksville, and I'll meet you at the station..."

Somehow, I don't think this is the station they were referring to. "Oh no no no, oh no no no..."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Ties That Bind

My sister and I drove to Cincinnati last weekend for a Crusham family reunion. My mom was one of eight children, and two of her sisters are still alive. We treasure the opportunity to see these sweethearts as well as our many cousins. This time we had to stay in a hotel as the one cousin who normally puts us up (or perhaps I should say puts up with us) was out of town for a wedding. He may have planned it that way - ha! I chose a hotel by the airport, which isn't the most convenient location, but between a Reds home game, Oktoberfest, and a music festival the hotels close to the city were either booked or asking an extravagant rate for the rooms.

Friday night we met up with my dad's remaining sister Gloria and helped celebrate her 85th birthday. Two of her daughters were able to join us, and we had a nice dinner together. The evening ended when Gloria proclaimed, "My ass hurts, it's time to leave." We all busted out laughing! When I am old, I shall say whatever I please.

Saturday morning was a bit dreary, but that didn't stop us from heading to Findlay Market in downtown Cincinnati. Three of our cousins on my mom's side met us there. It is an historic market, with stalls and shops and pretty much anything you could imagine to eat. It was great to be able to sit outside and catch up with everyone's lives. My cousin's dog Bella is a Super Star at the market, and her cute face scored her lots of handouts.

Findlay Market

That night we were off to Price Hill Chili, where they have a nice back room suitable for the rowdy Crusham crowd. We had the same waitress as last year, and I told her I was surprised that we she hadn't quit after the last time we ate here. She just laughed. While we had a smaller turnout than last year (32), we were so surprised to see my mom's first cousin Dot Krauser and her sons with their wives. She is 97 years young, and is quite the firecracker. She had such a great time, and my aunts sure enjoyed visiting with her. She even had a Bloody Mary! I am inspired by these ladies who know how to age well.

Betty, Margie & Dot
Kathy, Betty, Margie & me

On Sunday we picked up Aunt Betty and Aunt Margie and took them out to lunch before going to the rehab center where Betty's husband Jack is undergoing therapy. It was nie to have one on one time with the aunts, and of course a visit to Cincinnati is never complete without seeing Uncle Jack. That night we met up with the cousins who had been out of town for a wedding - over dinner, what else? As I have always said, we eat our way through Cincinnati!

It was a fabulous visit, as always. It was fun to reminisce about the past while creating new memories for the future.