Monday, June 19, 2017

The "Piano Man" Sings to Us... Again


Hi Everybody!  

Here it is, Monday morning, and I can’t wait to blather on and tell you all about where Todd and I went this weekend! As you know, we’re just a coupla middle-aged folk who tend to spend our off-time working on home-improvement projects, errand running, and going to movie matinees. (Who doesn’t like to save $3 bucks, am I right?!?!?) Anyway... Given all of that, I think you’ll be happy to know that this past Saturday was spent in a completely different fashion.  

First, I must provide a bit of background information… On Valentine’s Day, Todd and I always exchange cards, and maybe a little gift of some kind - flowers, a DVD, some music, or even candy. This year he handed me a card, and inside was a computer print-out of a seating chart of Lambeau Field. For those of you who don’t know, Lambeau is where our beloved Green Bay Packers play their home games, and it’s often joked about as being some of football’s most “Hallowed Ground.” I know… silly… but fun too!  Anywho… on the chart was a seating diagram for the upcoming June 17th Billy Joel concert. Right about where the 50-yard line would normally be, two tiny seats were marked. That’s right! Todd had found a way to nab us two coveted seats to see Billy Joel... LIVE.  

To say I was surprised or excited is such an understatement. I think that somewhere down deep inside of myself, I figured we might be done attending events such as this. I mean, I don’t think we've been to a great big concert since 2003 when we saw Fleetwood Mac (minus Christine McVie) at Milwaukee’s Marcus Amphitheatre. And this concert would be about 3 times larger than that. I’ve always loved music, and enjoyed attending concerts, but… well… I don’t know. That lifestyle took a backseat for quite a while, and then all of a sudden, it was back! It had re-surfaced!

The other very large piece of this concert excitement for me was the fact that I have always really loved Billy Joel. Back in 1978, when I was a senior in high school, Billy came to Milwaukee, and I went to see him with a couple of my girlfriends. Other than seeing small bands at local fairs and festivals, his was the first major concert I ever attended. I think the tickets were $15.00, which was a lot of money to me back then! Sure, I’d heard some of his music on the radio here and there, but when his album, The Stranger came out, I listened to it over and over (and over). On Sunday night, October 15, 1978, Billy Joel took the stage. He opened the show by softly whistling the opening bars of The Stranger into a totally dark auditorium. After that, I heard the best 2 ½ hours of music I could have ever imagined. He finished the night with Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. From that time on, all other concerts were compared (and some failed miserably) to that first (very special) one.   

1979/1980  52nd Street
 
Through the years, Todd and I have seen Billy Joel several times. We went in 1980 when we were dating. We saw him at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago in 1984. We saw him in the mid ‘90’s from “a luxury box” at the Bradley Center. In 2004, when we were in New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Todd and I saw the Broadway production of Movin’ Out, which was a musical with the storyline based solely through Billy Joel's music. There was no talking - just singing and dancing. And now we got to see him, possibly for the last time (who ever knows, you know?) at Lambeau Field. As you can see, we’ve got some history here. In fact, I had thought it would be neat to name our first-born son “William Joel Memmel…” But as you can plainly see, Todd won that battle, since we named said child, “Anthony Joseph,” - Tony, for short. (wink) 
 
 


 

On Saturday afternoon, Todd and I drove the two-plus hours to Green Bay. It’s always such a thrill to come upon that huge stadium. It’s kind of funny because it’s basically located right in a residential-type neighborhood. People offer parking (for a fee) right in their yards. Crazy but true! We parked and as we walked into the stadium, we took a selfie to text to our kids. After all, it isn’t every day that their 50-something parents attend a rock concert. Once we entered, we scouted our seats, then decided to look around for a while. I must confess that the crowd was different from any that I’d ever encountered at a concert before. Of course, as I admitted earlier, I hadn’t been to an event like this in years. All of Billy Joel’s fans had aged as much as we had. Imagine that! As Todd observed, “There weren’t a lot of people with walkers, but there were a whole lot wearing glasses.”  Cute!  

As I said earlier, our seats were on the field, on about the 50-yard line. As we glanced up and around the inside of the stadium, names of Packer greats are displayed in yellow/gold letters. The first one I saw was “Vince Lombardi.” It had been a cloudy day, with scattered storms predicted, but as we sat there looking around, the sun must have peeked through the clouds before it set, and all of the gold names on the east side of the place began to glow. It was so cool, seriously! (By the way, the rain held off, and it was a perfect evening, weatherwise.) Promptly at 8:00, a band took the stage to open the night. The lead singer’s name was “Andrew McMahon” and he said that about 25 years ago, he had seen his first Billy Joel concert. From that time on, he wanted only to play music for a living. They played for about 30 minutes, and did a good job. Can you imagine how cool that would be, to open for a big name like Billy Joel?  Of course, having a musician son myself, I often think of (dream of?) things like that. #TonyMemmelRocks 

The stage encompassed one of the endzones, probably 1/3 of the stadium in all. It was black and very tall, and had several large video screens. We had no idea, however, how amazing all of that would be. Some may argue that concerts are ‘just not the same as they used to be’ now that they employ so much video technology. But man… I gotta tell ya… I thought it was A-MAY-ZING!!! Billy Joel opened with Movin’ Out, and true to his NY and east coast roots, used the video screens to depict the cities, towns, apartments, streets, everything about that song. From where we were sitting/standing, he obviously looked very small, sitting up on stage behind his big grand piano. So can you imagine how awesome it was for the cameras to focus on and project his face, or just his hands, as ‘the piano man’ played riffs from The Entertainer and Scenes from an Italian Restaurant? Yes, please!!!  

At one point during the concert, Billy humbly said it was such a thrill to be playing for us. He remembered back to when he and his friends sang their music on street corners, and people would yell out of their windows, “Ahh Shut up! Go home!” and then they’d ask, “Do your mothers know where you are right now?” He laughed and shook his head, sitting on a stage in front of this huge crowd. I guess that a career of 40-plus years kind of took care of people who felt that way, huh? 

I mentioned the fact that I saw Billy Joel the first time when I was 17, and whether I thought it about myself or not, I guess I once was young and quite beautiful. I would say the same for him. He was quite something back then – a full head of black hair, those dark and drowsy eyes, slim build, jumping off of his piano, running around on stage… and now his looks have changed a great deal too. He’s completely bald, has gained a few pounds, and did no jumping off of his piano (or anywhere else). BUT MAN! He’s still got ‘it’ – that thing – whatever ‘it’ is. He’s funny, he’s cute, he’s aged and he knows it, but couldn’t seem to care less. He put on a great show, and his fans still absolutely love him! That was obvious.


Towards the end of two hours, he got out his harmonica, sat down at the piano, and started those first familiar strains of Piano Man. Wow! There was even a point when he stopped and swiveled toward the audience, just letting them sing the song to him. I doubt there was one person in the stadium of close to 50,000 who wasn’t singing along to that one. When it was over, he left the stage, and as all good concert-goers do, we begged for him to return for an encore. Of course he obliged. In fact, he came back to play four or five more songs! My Life, Big Shot, Only the Good Die Young, Still Rock’n Roll to Me, and You May be Right I May be Crazy. That’s right, after almost 40 years, he’s still doing a 2 ½ hour show.  

Though the tickets cost us waaaaay more than $15/seat, we definitely felt that we got what we paid for. His whole show, from the opener to the very end, was like one huge sing-along. So many die-hard fans (mostly middle-aged, but other ages too) all singing every word to every song… such fun!  

We hadn’t been to a concert in a long time, but I’m so glad that we were able to go to this concert. None of us are getting any younger, and it felt… (this may sound kind of silly, but maybe some of you will understand)… it felt like seeing an ‘old friend’ again. When you consider how large a role music has played in our lives, it’s as though some of these entertainers have provided a soundtrack for our lives. For me, that goes all the way from high school to today.  

Thank you, Todd, for the great Valentine’s Day gift, which was beautifully delivered on a warm June evening. And thank you, Billy Joel, for decades of good songs – words, beats, and rhythms - that have withstood the test of so much time. 

Katie Kolberg Memmel is the author of two books: “Five Fingers, Ten Toes – A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child Born with a Limb Difference,” and “Silly Stories and Sentimental Stuff.” Both are available through Amazon in either an electronic version or in paperback. For more information, visit Katie’s website at www.katiekolbergmemmel.com 

#BillyJoel   #BillyJoelatLambeau   #ThePianoMan   #Singusasongyourethepianoman  #LambeauLovesBillyJoel 

 

 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Reflections on Lawns... and Life!


Good morning, and what a spectacular spring morning it is!  

Today is Tuesday May 30th, the day after Memorial Day, 2017. I know that the “holiday” is for remembering and thanking those who have fought, and continue to fight, for our country's and our personal freedoms. Seriously, not a day goes by that I don't remember that; afterall, my father is a WWII veteran, and to this day, he wears a poppy clipped to his golf hat. It was also neat to hear that he kept his tradition of visiting my mom’s grave yesterday, and delivered some flowers to her – so sweet! All of that was in my heart and on my mind over the past few days.
 
But I must admit that Todd and I were also fortunate enough to get away, and enjoyed a few days on our boat. With the crazy work schedule that he keeps, we do enjoy tacking on a couple of vacation hours to an already-long three-day weekend, whenever we get that opportunity, and benefiting from some overdue R & R.  

Which brings me to this morning, here in Waukesha Wis! I felt relaxed from being away, and decided that since there’s rain in the forecast for later on, I’d cash in on the morning sunshine and cut the lawn (whether it needed it or not… and believe me, it needed it!)  Maybe it was because I felt so refreshed from the weekend - I really don’t know; but as I prepared to cut, new thoughts fell into place, and I became inspired to write a new blog post. For a writer who hasn’t written one in quite some time (two months!), I consider that a good thing! It’s called, “Reflections on Lawns… and Life”  Have you ever connected those two particular dots (lawns and life) before? No? Well, let’s see how it goes, shall we?  

As I gassed up the mower and turned the ignition switch, I remembered years ago how I had to pull on ye old starter rip cord. Sometimes I’d pull and pull and the mower just wouldn’t start. Already I felt fortunate that there's been such a nice improvement that has made my job so much easier!

As I cut the first green blades of grass, down near the street, a realization popped into my head. First of all, I was born in 1961, so my first memories of grass cutting were of my dad and my two brothers using one of those ancient push mowers. Not the kind that I was pushing today, but an un-motorized mower with sharp menacing blades that you could see openly spinning around and around. It also dawned on me that my mother never (and I do mean NEVER) cut the grass. That was mans’ work! (wink)  

As I crossed over the driveway, my mom’s words made me smile because, my oh my, how times have changed! I remember when I first cut our (Todd’s and my) lawn. It was about 31 years ago - the spring that Todd and I had decided I’d quit my full-time job and stay home with “the baby.” Even though I’d never cut a lawn before, I felt happy to try! I mean, since I spent the majority of my days at home, and Todd spent the majority of his days at work, I knew I was expanding our family’s time together by taking care of the yard. I guess we’ve handled a lot of things in our marriage that way – whatever makes the most sense, or whoever has the most knowledge or time, does a certain project or job.

As I finished cutting near the street, I looked up into our back yard. We have quite a slope to our yard, and it’s always a challenge trying to figure out which way to mow first. I’ve tried a number of paths, always hoping that somehow the yard will 'change...' but oddly enough, those hills never seem to disappear. Sometimes I’ve wondered why we bought this slopey hilly lot at all! I mean, wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to buy a flat piece of real estate? We also could have purchased one of those riding mowers – just driven around, waving at all of the neighbors… That wouldabeen fun! (sigh)   

But no… Instead, we chose the hill, and because of that choice, we built a house with a gorgeous view. Our south and east windows look out over our neighborhood, and give us scenic variety that we’d never have experienced on a flat parcel. We planted trees, and built stone walls to house bushes, trees and red rock. The trees have matured beautifully and now provide us with afternoon shade. However, we now have giant tree roots pushing up through the ground. Nowadays, as I mow, I need to take those roots into consideration, so as not to nick them with my blades. A view, shade and roots… Hmmm… (Life!)

Anyway, as I made my way around the yard, I first headed over to (what I consider to be) the worst area, and got it “over with.” I hate that corner of our yard, but after finishing that difficult (cavernous) spot, the rest of the project always seems like pure joy. I’ve found that the most efficient path for me to take is to make one huge square. I’ve tried it different ways, but find no reprieve from the hills, and boy, can those be exhausting! Sooo… When I make this larger sweeping cut I’ve described, I have the downhill path on which I recover from the uphill path – over and over until the square shrinks and shrinks into a single small patch. Today the whole process only took me 50 minutes, which is down from my traditional hour! Sure, the temperature was only in the low 60’s, but still… I figured I must be doing something right!  

I must say that once I finished, and I stood staring back at the yard, it looked so nice. I love a freshly-mown lawn, don’t you? Even though I know that more dandy-lions and weeds will rise up in the next week or so, I guess that I still find it somewhat satisfying; like somehow the effort I put in today, and the effort we’ve put in throughout the years, adds greatly to the natural beauty and variety of the landscape – even if only for a few days at a crack.   

You might be thinking, Wow! Katie sure has a lot of deep thoughts when she’s cutting the grass! And that would be true! To be honest with you, I seem to have a lot of deep thoughts about most things! My mind never rests. I believe that’s the writer in me… and… I guess that’s a good thing!  So here's to the ups and downs of lawns... and life!

Have great days!

 

Katie Kolberg Memmel is the author of two books: “Five Fingers, Ten Toes – A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child Born with a Limb Difference,” and “Silly Stories and Sentimental Stuff.” Both are available through Amazon as paperback and electronic versions. For more information, visit her website at: www.katiekolbergmemmel.com 

 

 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Where have I been? Well, funny you should ask...


Hello! 

Oh my goodness, how in the world is everybody doing? We’re good, but it’s been a crazy couple-a months! Whew! 

The good news is (and has been for quite some time now) I’m writing a new book!  

The bad news is (or the reality-flip-side of my good news is) that when I say I’m writing a new book, I have to actually sit down and take the time to write the book! Yeah, I know! It’s crazy, right? I have to actually do the work! Crazy, but very true, however! 

I’m not a person who likes to give a lot of excuses, so I won’t make a list for you. That said, ‘life’ really can get in the way sometimes – even of our best intentions and best-laid plans. Sometimes the ‘life’ that I speak of is serious and needs immediate attention. We’ve ‘been there, done that’ this winter – that’s for sure! And sometimes the ‘life’ that I speak of is just plain exhaustion, or using my time unwisely, or losing focus, or feeling uncreative, or, or, or… (okay, this is sounding a lot like the excuse thing that I dissed earlier – I digress) ;) 

Now, back to the good news… The good news is that I’ve been working on a book project for quite some time now. I don’t want to give too much away because I want there to be an element of surprise in this. BUT, I do want to begin hinting at the book’s theme, so that you can all become as excited about this as I am. Okay, the theme is… (Drum roll please…) “LOVE.” Through a series of interviews that I’ve been conducting, I will be talking about love, love, and more love – a LOT! In fact, a whole books’-worth o' love!  

Well, what do you think? Are you interested? I hope so! Are you intrigued? I really hope so! Are you going to stay tuned to see what I have up my sleeve? Oh, I’m really praying that’s how you’ll feel!  

Someone told me recently that I don’t post on social media as often as I used to. That, my dear friends, is true. Yes, I’ve been trying to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter, but as I said earlier, I’ve really needed to buckle down and work on my ‘love’ly book project. And it’s funny because when I do that – when I actually shut out tempting distractions like the television, telephone, and social media ‘shtuff,’ my productivity rises considerably. Who knew? Sooo… I put my head down, my fingers on the keys, and onward I go!  

I’m very excited to tell you all of this news today, and sincerely hope that you will feel the same way I do. I promise to keep in touch as I progress, but in the meantime…   

#amlistening   #amthinking   #amwriting    #amediting   #authorsgottaauth  auth auth auth auth auth

Katie Kolberg Memmel is the author of two books: “Five Fingers, Ten Toes – A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child Born with a Limb Difference;” and “Silly Stories and Sentimental Stuff.” Both are available in electronic and paperback versions. For more information, visit her website at www.katiekolbergmemmel.com       

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Getting Older... Hmmm...


Hi Everybody! How’s it going today?  

To be honest, things have been a bit strange around here lately. I’ve been thinking more and more often about how it feels to be getting older. Now, when I say ‘getting older’ I don’t mean the way it feels to go from age 15 to 16, when you feel that awesome sense of anticipation because you’ll soon be able to drive. Or the feeling you have when you’re turning 21, and finally going to bars and buying your first legal drink. I’m not even talking about going from age 39 to 40, which many people dread because it sounds so “ooooooold.” ;)  No… Age fifty is far behind me, and I’m solidly 55; and at 55, I’m seeing some significant changes in the ways we live our lives. Allow me to explain…

First of all, Todd’s and my conversations are beginning to revolve more around retiring from employment than about working at the actual employment itself. We’ve started taking a much sharper view of our finances, and examining what and how much we save today, may benefit us someday down the road. For us, it’s no longer about making mortgage payments or running up sky-high credit card balances, as much as it is about 401K’s and mutual funds. I don’t know… Sometimes I love that we’re in this new phase of life. I mean, there’s certainly nothing wrong with it, and it’s certainly not a bad place to be. It’s just kind of… ‘different’ from absolutely everything we’ve done up to this point in life. 

It’s weird too because crazy health issues start seeping into everyday conversations. A dinner doesn’t go by when one of us isn’t explaining that “This hurts,” or “That aches,” or “I think it’s a little better than it was yesterday,” or “Maybe we should call the doctor about that tomorrow… ” You name it, and a couple in their 50’s probably discusses it. For my older friends and readers out there, I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. I remember when my own mom started saying things like I’m saying. One of her common sayings was, “It takes me twice as long to accomplish half as much.” It’s just so different. I mean, there were days, years ago, that all we discussed was soccer or baseball schedules, school concerts, babysitting jobs, and “Who’s going to walk the dog today?” When did everything suddenly become about our backs and shoulders and eyes and other odd items that shall remain nameless... you get the picture.  

I was talking with my daughter on the phone recently, and I told her I was feeling a little bit melancholy. She pointed out how many funerals I attend, and I hadn’t even really considered that as a reason for my malaise. She’s right. Todd and I really do attend a lot of funerals. I attend even more than he does because sometimes they’re scheduled in the middle of a work day. Since I have more flexibility with my time, I’ll often go alone; but if it's on a weekend, we tend to go together. I bet we attended at least twelve in 2016. I know this isn’t that unusual. We’re at the age when this starts to happen. We try to get to as many as possible to show respect. It makes sense. Why, I remember when my own parents began this phase in their relationship. I was in my 20’s at the time, and it felt like every time we spoke on the phone, they were stopping at a funeral home for a neighbor, friend, or relative. They’d often just matter-of-factly work it into their busy days. “We have a few errands to run, we’ll swing over to the visitation for “Delores,” and then we’ll stop and grab a burger before we head home.” Their casual tone felt so strange to me; but dang…! Here we are now, too!   

Anyway, Megan told me to write a blog post about it, and I hesitated, hemmed, and hawed. She told me, “Mom, people like it when you write about real, everyday struggles. Most people are probably going through a lot of what you are. I think it would be good for you to get it out. Write it down!”

She’s so precious – I tell my kids all of the time to “Write it down!” and now she’s telling me the same thing. Which brings me to a whole ‘nother topic: Have your kids become your teacher yet? They really are smart sometimes, aren’t they? Perhaps that’s a topic for another day… ;)   

Anyway, I really appreciated my daughter’s take on this and for advising me to write this post. I pray that my readers understand what I’m trying to convey. Between the retirement talk, the health stuff, and the funerals, I also need to say that I’m extremely grateful to God to be healthy enough to discuss retirement, health, and funerals - both in my real life as well as right here on my blog, with you all.  

As always, thanks for reading!  

Until we meet again…  

Katie Kolberg Memmel is the author of two books: “Five Fingers, Ten Toes – A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child Born with a Limb Difference,” and “Silly Stories and Sentimental Stuff.” Both are available through Amazon as an electronic and paperback version. For more information about Katie and her writing, visit her website: www.katiekolbergmemmel.com         
 
#GettingOlder  #Retirement  #AdultKids 


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dressing for the Weather

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!  

Wind out of the north! Good to know!
I cannot even believe that we are this far into 2017 already. All of January is behind and February 5 has arrived. The good news is that the weather hasn’t been all that bad ‘round these parts. Sure, we’ve had a few cold snaps, but not a ton of snow. The temps haven’t been as cold as January, usually our coldest month, can sometimes be. We’ve actually had quite a few days in the teens and twenties – even as high as the 40’s! I know! It’s like a heat wave here when that happens! But we’ve had very few days with wind chills below zero or anything. So far, this winter has been fairly ‘do-able.’ 

That said, I’ve noticed that people around here, in this northern frozen tundra state of Wisconsin, do not dress properly, regardless of the forecast. Retailers (especially around Christmastime) sell us truckloads of mittens and scarves, snow pants, coats and boots… but do we WEAR them? Aaahhh! Now there’s the question. I’m afraid that the most honest answer I can give is, “Sometimes!” 

For example, on a recent 8-degree morning at 6:00 a.m., Todd zipped up his nice warm ski jacket, picked up his work paraphernalia, and headed for the front door.  

Do you have your hat and gloves?” I asked. “You said you have to go to a job walk-through today.” 

“Yes,” he said, “they’re in my truck.” 

You see? It’s the “in my truck” that worries me. He has the proper gear, he just doesn’t use the proper gear. He’s warm from his shoulders to his waist. Everything else freezes. 

But I’m afraid that he’s not alone in this sort of cold-weather folly. It’s rampant. I drove past a bus stop the other day, and there was a teenage kid standing in the 18-degree wind, wearing no more than a hoodie and a pair of SHORTS! Then there are those who actually pull on their gloves, and button their coats. Heck, they even flip up their collars! But because they don’t want to ‘mess up their hair,’ they’d rather face the day bare-headed and shivering - their teeth chattering away. But boy, ya gotta admit they look good! So that’s good! (wink) Okay, and I’ll be totally honest. There are many days that I brave the elements without my gloves, even though I carry them in my coat pockets! You may be asking why I do that…? My only response is probably because it’s easier. I. Don’t. Know! 



Earlier today I decided to get a bit of fresh air before hunkering down to watch the big game. I glanced out my front window to see if our flag was blowing in the breeze, and if it was, which direction I’d need to be most mindful of the wind The sun was shining, and the sky was bright blue, but here in this neck of the woods, those seemingly perfect conditions can be quite deceiving.  

I decided to get smart, and dress for the weather. I zipped up my lightest winter jacket. I pulled on my knit cap, and then pulled up my hood too, just to keep the cold wind off of my neck. I also pulled the gloves from my jacket pocket, and actually put them on my hands! (A novel idea, I know!)  

It was a wonderful winter walk! I wasn’t cold at all, not even when I turned the corner and headed into the wind.  I felt okay – better than okay. Hey! I may even walk again tomorrow! What an idea! Dress for winter and it’s actually manageable!  

Why oh why don’t we just use the items that are in our closets, or in our trucks, or in our pockets? Perhaps that’s a question we’ll answer another day.  

As for today, are ya ready for some football???  

Katie Kolberg Memmel is the author of two books: “Five Fingers, Ten Toes – A Mother’s Story of Raising a Child Born with a Limb Difference,” and “Silly Stories and Sentimental Stuff.” Both are available through Amazon as electronic and paperback versions. For more information, visit her website at www.katiekolbergmemmel.com