Sunday, June 30, 2024

Favorite Songs


During World Music Day, I heard the question posed on the radio, “If you had to listen to music by one artist on a ten-hour road trip, who would it be?” I never heard any answers so maybe it was just a rhetorical question to make a person think.

Well, I thought about it and couldn’t really come up with an answer. I did know that on a 1999 trip to Colorado, we listened to one artist on a twelve-hour road trip.

During that time, Jim’s favorite singer was Michael Martin Murphey. While we drove down I-70 through the wheat fields and sunflowers of Kansas, Jim insisted we play only Michael Martin Murphey tapes—and he had a stack of them.

My mom and nephew were on this trip with us. As Jim napped in the backseat, Mom looked at me and said, “You know I always liked Michael Martin Murphey.”

“Me too,” I said.

“But…after listening to him for hours and hours, I don’t care to ever hear him again.”

“Me either,” I said.

The day I met Jim, I quickly learned that his favorite singer was Buck Owens. We were at the Dew Drop Inn at Stover and he fed the jukebox and played only Buck Owens songs. Through the years, I heard every song that Buck Owens recorded. “Buckaroo” was so ingrained in Jim’s mind that he was able to play it flawlessly five years into dementia.

Music has a direct link to something deep inside of us. A special song can release endorphins that lift our spirits and heal our hearts. Jim played the guitar and wooed me with “Tender Feelings” and “Lindarella” (his version of Buck Owen’s “Cinderella.”) It’s hard to resist a guy who plays guitar and sings special songs.

Jim suffered from chronic pain and PTSD. He kept his acoustic guitar on a stand in the kitchen and while he worked on his first cup of coffee, he would pick up his guitar and strum a few tunes. Sometimes, he sang, but for his “therapy,” as he called it, he usually just played his guitar. Jim innately understood the healing power of music.

Music can be enjoyed in many ways. I have kept my SiriusXM in my car so that I can listen to the type of music that suits my mood. Some days I listen to 60s or 50s music. The music of my youth can magically lift my spirits. Also, it’s a good way to find songs that the residents of the nursing homes and assisted living centers can enjoy.

Research shows that music improves our sense of well-being and can boost mental health. Listening to music can also help persons with Alzheimer’s reconnect with memories of happier times.

When our family band plays music for residents, it’s good for them and good for us. I love to look at the residents’ faces and see them light up with joy when they recognize a song. Often they will sing along.

We are volunteers and never charge or accept payment for entertaining. As amateur entertainers, we make an effort to do our best. We usually have two practice sessions before we play anywhere. The first session is to try new songs and the second one is to practice our program. My brother Jimmy is the bandleader, and we run through our chosen songs until he finds the best key. Each month we have a different playlist downloaded to our tablets complete with song lyrics, chords, and the key for the singer.

Learning to play an instrument helps keep your brain healthier as you age. Warren Buffett creates balance in his work life by playing the ukulele. Buffett learned to play the instrument when he was eighteen years old. He had a crush on a girl who already had a boyfriend. The only thing he could figure out that the other guy had that he didn’t was a ukulele. Although he still didn’t win the girl, his ukulele came in handy when he fell in love with Susan Thompson. While Susan went out with friends or on dates, Buffett jammed with her dad who played a mandolin. This time the ukulele saved the day and the couple wed in 1952. 

The ukulele has enriched my life. My monetary wealth falls short of Warren Buffett’s by about 135 billion dollars, but I venture to guess that I enjoy playing my ukulele as much as he does.

Copyright © June 2024 by L.S. Fisher


Monday, June 24, 2024


The last time our family band was setting up to play music at the Good Samaritan Care Center in Cole Camp we heard some 50s era music over their speakers. The song “Personality” came on and my brother, sister-in-law and I sang along as we worked. We talked about the possibility of adding the song to our play list.

With all kinds of love songs floating around, you don’t hear too many that mention personality as a main attribute. Perhaps the song’s popularity was because we are often attracted to others because of his or her personality.

Personality can be defined as complicated categories, physiological types, or with various  psychoanalytic theories. Some people think their personality type is determined by the signs of the Zodiac. I think personality is a person’s characteristic way of thinking, feeling, and behaving that comprises an individual’s unique adjustment to life. 

If you look at your friends, you may find that many have similar personalities, although your inner circle of friends may also have complementary personalities. You may be shy and meek, but your friend will stand up for you and boldly defend you. Personalities are unique and define our humanity.

Jim and I were alike in many ways, yet different in others. We both came from large, extended families that thrived on jam sessions. Family was important to both of us. We were different in that I grew up in one house and went to one school, but Jim lived in dozens of houses throughout his lifetime and went to several different schools in various states. Jim loved to travel and camp out, but I preferred to stay home in comfort. I thought it was important to save for a rainy day, and Jim thought money was only important as to what it would buy.

Through good times and bad, we blended together. He taught me to love travel and camping, and I brought him around to fiscal responsibility. Our personalities kept life interesting and we had an abundance of deep, meaningful conversations interspersed with humor and laughter.

Then, along came dementia. The most heartbreaking part of the disease was losing the sense of self that made Jim…Jim. For a long time, he looked the same on the outside, but he wasn’t the same on the inside. He lost the sharp wit, the intelligence, and the awesome mechanical abilities that he had. No, everything didn’t change at once, parts of his personality shone through at times, but as he lost his skills and ability to carry on a conversation, he turned inward.

Jim’s personality changed, but his personhood did not. He lost many of the qualities of his personality, but he retained the goodness of his heart and, occasionally, I saw a spark of his spirit. He was a man with dementia, but he was still a unique individual.   

Jim and I were two sides of the same coin. By the time Jim’s personality changed, we shared a history that allowed my love to reshape itself. Jim had once been my protector, but eventually, I became his. Nothing else builds a characteristic adjustment to life as much as necessity does.

When we think of falling in love, “personality” may not be the first word that comes to mind, but it may be what captures the heart and keeps love alive.  

 Copyright © June 2024 by L.S. Fisher


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Never too Old

In 2017, I bought a cheap ukulele and watched YouTube videos to learn a few chords. At first, I thought I might be too old to learn to play an instrument.

I started practicing with the family band, which increased my learning curve. Before long, my new skill led to playing and singing with them in local nursing homes and a retirement community.

I’ve found that I’m not too old to learn new songs. We practice our material before we play in public. It’s always fun to learn new material. Some songs are easy to learn, but others are a challenge. The thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes the more challenging songs become embedded in my memory. Singing is fun and learning new tunes is good mental exercise.

Playing music for appreciative audiences is good for the soul—theirs and mine. Music can be a  connection to the past, and I’m always gratified when I see faces light up as they sing along. A song they haven’t heard before can also make a connection. I’m sure most of the residents had never heard “Ozark Mountain Lullaby” but after I sang it a few times, many of them sang along with the la-la-la part. A visitor at one of the homes last month held a baby in her arms, and she was singing that part to her baby. Be still my heart!

A few weeks ago, I brought my mom’s guitar home with me and thought that since I had it, I might as well see if I could play it. The chords seemed awkward at first, and I was beginning to wonder whether I would ever get my fingers in the correct positions. After a few days, I realized that I had learned several basic chords. Now, I just have to develop the muscle memory to be able to change swiftly from one chord to another.

As I sat practicing G and C chords, Harold said, “That guitar sounds really good.”

“Imagine how good it would sound if I knew what I was doing.”

I have firmly convinced myself that I’m not too old to learn something new. It takes practice, practice, and more practice. It takes perseverance with a healthy amount of stubbornness.

Learning new skills is good brain exercise, and without a doubt, my brain needs all the exercise it can get!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve slowed down with age. With another birthday looming over me, I want to focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t do.

You are never too old to laugh. I still have a good sense of humor and I find humor in everyday life. I’m nearly deaf in one ear and my husband is nearly deaf in both ears. A few days ago, I was getting ready to leave for my mom’s house, and I told Harold that I was taking some “hens and chickens” to my mom. Okay, I should have said “hens and chicks” because that’s what the succulent plant is called. What I said and what he heard were two different statements. He asked, “Why are you taking candy kisses to your mom?”

I’ve never been mechanically inclined so I had the guy that mows our lawn check the oil in my mower. He flipped the seat forward and checked the oil. Several days later, I decided to use the mower to move some wood chips from the pile. The mower started fine, but when I released the brake, the mower died. After about four trys, I realized something was wrong. I thought about the kill switch that stops the mower if you fall off. I flipped the seat forward and sure enough, all I had to do was connect the two ends. So, I guess you’re never too old to do it yourself.

You are never too old to say no, even if you’ve spent a lifetime saying yes. If the covid shutdown taught me one thing, it was that one of the blessings of life is to do nothing at all from time to time. I’ve spent the last two decades of my life going in so many directions that at times I’ve lost my way. The pressure of trying to make all the meetings, appointments, and make headway on all the ongoing projects left my head spinning. Literally!

I believe that keeping busy is good for the body and brain, but we all know what happens when we overload a circuit. My goal for the upcoming months is to focus on the activities that bring joy into my life. I want to decompress, de-stress, and embrace each day as a gift of abundant living.  


Copyright © June 2024 by L.S. Fisher