“Living the Dream,” April 5, 2022

Out in the garage, my husband is playing his bass. I’m in the living room working on a column. He thinks I don’t hear him, but I do. Nothing is noisier than somebody trying hard not to make too much noise.

He’s a gifted musician and quite the perfectionist. He often practices for hours playing the same notes over and over.

At times, it’s enough to make me want to run screaming out the driveway, snatching myself bald. Instead, I take my laptop into the bedroom, shut the door and go back to work.

If you’ve ever lived with a musician, you probably know, no matter how much you adore them, the survival of your relationship (and possibly someone’s life) requires a little tolerance. Or insanity. Or both.

I shouldn’t complain. I knew he was a musician when I married him. He was also an editor (and my editor for a while) but I didn’t let that stop me. I’d been a widow for years before we were married, and my youngest child was a drummer.

If you’ve lived with a drummer and survived to talk about it, you might feel a bit invincible.

I am not invincible. Far from it. But I love music and most anyone who plays it reasonably well. Including my husband.

Now he’s playing “Danny Boy.” And it is just as lovely as you and I and all God’s angels could ever hope for it to be.

I wish you could hear him.

Don’t tell him I said that. It’ll only make him practice more.

Today he’s working on a set list for an upcoming real-live gig. It will be the first public appearance he’s played in more than two years, since the pandemic shut down so many of life’s pleasures, like church and school and human interaction.

For me, it shut down speaking engagements, one of the parts of my job I like best. But that, too, is reopening. Lately, I’ve spoken to a few book clubs. And tomorrow, I’ll talk about writing and life and other mysteries to a woman’s club where I first spoke some 30 years ago. I hope they’ll still recognize me.

The difference between my speaking and my husband’s playing music is simple: I don’t practice. I just show up and talk. If I spend time working on what I’ll say, he never has to hear it.
He always knows when I’m working, especially if I work late because it keeps him awake. But he never complains. And I get pretty deep into my work. If the house caught fire, I might not notice, unless he dragged me and my laptop out the door.

I write the way he plays music. We always want to give it our best. If the house ever catches fire when we’re both working, we’ll be in serious trouble.

As a child, I never dreamed of being a writer. I dreamed of singing and playing piano. My family had no money for piano lessons, but I learned to sing by listening to my mother and her sisters sing harmony on the porch.

Writing required no money, except for pencils or paper, and it seemed most anybody could do it, so I took that up, too.

Dreams come true in all sorts of ways, not always as we plan.

I’ve been singing and writing most of my life. I sing mainly to myself and to babies or others who don’t care how I sound. And I write stories for readers who are kind enough to say that my stories are their stories, too.

My husband dreamed of being a musician, but he also dreamed of earning a living. So he worked for a newspaper and played music after work. He’s retired now from his day job and happy to play day and night in our garage. And I am happy to hear him. Except when he plays the same notes over and over.

I try to encourage him to do what he loves, and he does the same for me. That’s what friends do. Especially friends who are married to each other and want to stay that way.

Some might call it a dream come true. I just call it living the dream, one bass note at a time.


  1. Joan McGonnell says

    Love this! I made a mistake when our then-8 year old would practice her piano lessons on the keyboard by having her plug in the ear phones so as not to wake her baby sister. I didn’t get to hear her, when just maybe it would have been “almost” like a lullaby for her baby sister. In retrospect … we could have both enjoyed hearing her learn to play what would eventually be beautiful recital music!

  2. Tim Bridler says

    I sent this to my friend in Southern California,and like last time, she thanked me and told me she enjoyed reading it.
    I consider it a gift to be able to share these columns with friends who don’t know you.

  3. I completely understand and would love nothing more than to hear those practice sessions, no matter how repetitive. Treasure every note! I look forward to seeing Mark play again!

  4. Margaret Regina Read says

    Your essay reminds me of the many nights when my father and his friends would have a jam session. The instruments varied as different friends participated so the music could be all string instruments or a mix of string and others. One of his friends was a bassoonist, another a trumpet player. Sometimes they played published compositions, but the best sessions were when they would start with a melody and then just follow eac,h others lead and let it just flow. Also, my cousin came to live with us during his middle school years where he was introduced to drumming. He has gigs regularly even now forty years later. Thank you for the trip down memory hill.

  5. Mary Lee Davenport says

    Your column brought back a memory of my late husband teaching his younger brother to play Wild wood Flower on the guitar over and over till I thought I would loose my mind.. I would love to hear him play that song again.

  6. Kate Sciacca says

    Ah yes…. Livin’the dream. I’m blessed. The bs (beloved spouse) ties flies for fly fishing…. It’s a quiet hobby. Although he often plays music while he ties… that’s not quiet.

    When Covid started I began helping our dear friend, a pastor who has a small church up in Tahoe City with some admin work in the parish office. The dear lady who had volunteered for years doing admin was 90 years old and her kids didn’t want her “in public.” After a while she decided it was time to retire and “besides Katie, you’re doing such a great job!” I always wanted to work at a parish and be a blessing to folks— whatever their need was. Livin’ the dream dear, livin’the dream 😉😉

  7. Patsy Styers says

    I love the way you blend humor and reality. It makes your words come to life and your readers feel as if they’re right there with you. Thanks for doing what you do so well❤️

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