10

Five Songs That Make Up a Happy Morning Playlist

Goooood morning from Madison. It’s the first day of school, and instead of sleeping in like I have been all summer, I actually beat my alarm clock up at 7:45 AM despite going to bed at 1:00 AM – if you know me, this is a miracle – and had the energy to emerge from the bed about 30 minutes later. Since then, I’ve showered, had an omelette and an iced cappuccino, played too much Secret Society, watched a podcast, done the New York Times Crossword, and read about 10 blog posts.

But back to today’s topic:

Waking up early is a treat, for me at least. It means I have the whole day ahead of me, and I want to start it right. Usually that’s the last thing I tell myself before opening my eyes again at 1:37 PM that afternoon, but you get the picture. Behold, this list that will get you up and at ’em on the right foot.

Five Songs That Make Up a Happy Morning Playlist

1. Zooey Deschanel, “The Fabric of our Lives.”

Yeah, it was from a commercial about cotton, but it’s just so peppy and morning-like that you can’t not smile. It actually sounds like it could be an actual jingle from the 1950s or 60s, sung by Brenda Lee or Little Peggy March. Zooey Deschanel is kind of annoying, but this song made her grow on me a little bit, like antique moss on a plastic potted plant.

2. Lena, “What A Man”

Lena Meyer-Landrut is one of the few talented progeny of Eurovision, and this acoustic morning-show rendition of En Vogue’s “What A Man” has just the right coffeehouse vibe for a low key morning. I used to listen to it while driving to the University of Houston, with hopes it would dispel any tzurris in my immediate future.

3. Corinne Bailey Rae, “Put Your Records On”

This song hearkens a summer morning with it’s opening words: “three little birds.” It’s like a gently flowing breeze to wake you up, rather than a harsh alarm clock. Honorable mention goes to Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You,” but CBR’s got a little more soul to enrich that morning java. Plus, there’s an awesome studio version on YouTube somewhere where she’s singing it while doing other stuff like directing the sound check and writing stuff down, showcasing her vocal talent and giving AutoTune the middle finger.

4. Oren Lavie, “Her Morning Elegance”

You can read most of the specifics about the song in this Masterpiece YouTube from about a year ago. If you don’t want to click (even though you totally should), I’ll give you the short version. The lyrics, combined with the bells, strings, gentle percussion give this song its morningness, plus the fact that it has the word “morning” in the title. Listening to this song brings back memories of misty mornings in Jerusalem, mornings in autumn and winter with a bit of crispness to the air and maybe some fog. Add some shoko b’sakit, corner makolet Israeli-style cappuccino, or one of those awesome breakfast trays, and it’s heaven on earth.

5. Dolly Parton, “Nine to Five”

You knew this one was coming, it’s pretty much unavoidable. Dolly Parton’s working-woman anthem is for those mornings when you just can’t drag yourself out of bed. The horns and typewriter sounds are just enough jazz to steer your ass to the kitchen for your cup of ambition.

Honorable Mention: “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray. Works best if you are actually in Baltimore. Or Ecuador.

So, enjoy the rest of your morning, as it’s almost afternoon here in Madison and my first class is in an hour.

I should probably put on pants.

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4

My Redheaded Firecracker Grandmother

Today would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.

She was my mother’s mother, and my last surviving grandparent, whom I affectionately called Mimi because my oldest cousin couldn’t say “grandma” when she was a toddler.

Over the course of her very full life (97 years and 89 days) she accomplished an amazing number of things before she succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are ten of them.

 

  1. She was remarkably well-educated at a time when not all women in America had that kind of luxury, drive, or wherewithal. Not only did she complete high school, but studied accounting at City College, today known as City College of New York (CCNY). 
  2. She was a member at the workforce at a young age; we think it was 16 since she lied about her age to get a job as a saleslady at Macy’s in Herald Square, which started her lifelong trend of denying her age. A true lady never reveals her age.
  3. She helped with the war effort; after seeing an ad in the newspaper, she moved to San Francisco to work as an accountant for a meat-packing plant. She lived with a cousin, and remembered how she got chauffeured to work every day in a private company car; a luxury. She also fondly remembered how her employers offered her a competitive salary.
  4. After the war, she returned to New York City, where she worked in accounting at a private hospital on Park Avenue in Manhattan, where she billed the rich and famous. One of her favorite memories (which she told me, and only me, over a plate of pasta at Noodles & Company) was the day she met First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In those days, hospitals had doormen, and one day, one of the said doormen came into her office, saying that Mrs. Roosevelt had walked in with a bouquet of flowers. Along with all the other hospital staff, she went down to the lobby to catch a glimpse of the First Lady, who had just finished visiting her friend and was walking down the stairs. I like to picture it as a Hello, Dolly! moment, only in more sensible shoes. All the staff members lined up and Mrs. Roosevelt went down the line, shaking everyone’s hand. Mimi also remembered that plenty of other celebrities came in as patients and visitors, but by the time I asked she had forgotten who else she had met.
  5. She traveled around the country and around the world, managing to hit up most of Western and Eastern Europe, China, Japan, and Indonesia, as well as visiting Israel six times.
  6. Her skills with numbers won her money in canasta and gin, and though she always liked bridge, she never replicated the same success. She was also a gifted singer. My grandfather, who was obsessed with audio/video recording, made a record of her singing some pop songs. My uncle found the records a few years back and shipped them somewhere (Wisconsin, I think) to have them converted to mp3 files. I heard it once, but since then I don’t know where that recording is. I wish I had it.
  7. She was strong in faith and in giving; she was a lifelong member of Hadassah and loved all Jewish holidays, especially the ones with sweet treats. One of my favorite memories of her later in life was Chanukah 2010, where even though most of her brain was gone, she still remembered the blessings over the candles and said them out loud, in Hebrew, without any help.
  8. She was also strong-willed; she gave up smoking in 1949 when smoking was the glamorous and popular thing to do. She did it when she got pregnant with my mom, her first child, because her doctor suggested that smoking while pregnant might be harmful to her and her baby’s health. After my mother was born, she lost interest in cigarettes.
  9. She was beautiful, with short, fire red hair and a New York accent and was often compared to Lucille Ball. She was also known to crack a good joke in her time. Her fiery hair and personality made her my “firecracker grandmother.”
  10. She always had a good sense of humor. At her 97th (and final) birthday, after the cake was served and eaten, I turned to her, saying “Thank you so much for inviting us to your party and being a wonderful hostess. Same time next year?” Her response: “Absolutely!”

Mimi, I miss you, I love you, and I will always love you.

Ruth Ellen Feingold Wilen Cooper

4/18/14 (The Bronx, New York, USA)  – 6/18/11 (Baltimore, Maryland, USA)