Monday, May 31, 2010

Magical Moment 116, "Remember"

Four notes were never so powerful. Slow, fluid, and pitch perfect. The short tune freezes us in our tracks, sends chills up our spine, and brings a lump to our throat. Taps. It pierces the dead silence at the grave of a fallen Soldier and when we hear it, we respect, give thanks, and remember.

Today we remember in other ways. As I look out my window, I see the neighbor children splashing in a wading pool, their parents grilling hamburgers, all on a perfect summer day with the American flag blowing proudly above the front door. The perfect picture of Americana.

We fly our flag today to remember. We hang wreaths today to remember. We tie a yellow ribbon today to remember. We say a prayer, look at an old photo, or visit a gravesite today to remember.

And tomorrow, we’ll remember in other ways. Service members, wear your uniforms with pride. Brasso your buttons for Lt Gaspers. Iron your uniform for Senior Airman Goodman. Mothers, say a prayer for 2Lt Perez’s family. Fathers, take your hat off for the Star Spangled Banner at the ball game for Spec Piestewa. Everyone, say “thank you” to a Veteran for Cpl Abad.

For though they may be fallen, they are not forgotten. Remember today, tomorrow, and always.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Magical Moment 115, "Magical Moments"

I’ve written lately about my incurable case of writer’s block. You’ve seen song lyrics and videos that I’ve posted in order to buy me a few days in hopes that inspiration will strike me and my idle fingers will spring to life, clicking away with words of motivation and hope.

I considered cutting back on my blog, from one magical moment per day, to one magical moment per every other day, or something to that effect (only a more poetic title, of course). When I mentioned that consideration to my older sister, I was met with an unexpected reaction. A resounding “No!” was her response. As I began to argue my case, “…I’m busy, it’s hard to think of something to write every day, I’ve done so many already…” I thought of all my past blogs. And then my mind rested on my very first post. I felt like giving up. I was tired. But I only needed one person in the whole world who believed in me and I was able to carry on. When I wanted to quit the most, was when I needed to persist the most. And then Regina said something that caused my idle fingers to spring to life, “Some days your ‘magical moments’ blog is the only magical thing that happens to me all day.”

So there you have it. There will be no “Magical Moment Per Every Other Day, Or Whenever I Feel Like It.” Magical moments happen every day, and if I can write them down to help others see them, even if it's just one person in the whole world, I will.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Magical Moment 114, "Two Fools"

"The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too."
~Samuel Butler, Notebooks, 1912

When I sit down at my piano with a pen and notepad, I banish Eddie from the house for fear of feeling inhibited in my "creative process." When I record an audition video, or just a video for fun, I go so far as to close all the windows in the house so that not even the neighbors or passers by can hear me. But of all the hours I spend experimenting, practicing, and making awful noises in my small music room, I have one audience member who is supportive, attentive, and constant. Joy, my dog. She patiently endures my out of tune screeching, repetitive mistakes, and frustrated yells. She was my comfort when Duchess passed away. She is my companion when I feel alone. She is my running partner, my traveling buddy, my amusement, and my friend. She is one of the few in the world that I can make a complete fool out of myself in front of and it's okay, because she does it right back.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Magical moment 113, "Brain Storm"

Is there anything more terrifying to a writer than staring at a blank, white page with an equally blank mind? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately, not just with my blog, but also with the articles I write for an internet company that recently hired me as a freelance writer. Despite my endless thoughts about music and the military, writing a daily article about each topic is not as easy as it may seem. And my blog? It appears that after one hundred and eleven days, I’ve run out of happy things to write about.

So today, you’ll bear witness to the brain storming process. Let’s see. Magical Moments. Inspirational thoughts. Nostalgic memories. Happy things. Rain drops on roses, whiskers on kittens. None of those really do it for me. Bright copper kettles? Ugh, cooking.

I often stare out my window waiting for inspiration. I’ve written about too many birds. The wind. The trees. Heard it. Been there, done that. Wait! Across the street, a FLAG waiving in the breeze displaying gallant patriotism and pride! It’s Memorial Day…weekend. Hmmm. Maybe that idea is best saved for Monday. Good things tend to hit me when I run, which I didn’t do today. I had a great gig for this weekend, but it got canceled.

I’ve been thinking lately that working mostly from home in addition to being a total anti-social, homebody is the formula for cabin fever, sweat pants, t-shirts, and regularly watching Oprah. Now I love Oprah and being comfy as much as the next gal, but I started thinking that maybe I'm in a rut.
Luckily, I have an attentive husband who asked me on a date last night. We went to dinner and a movie, not the most original date, but at least I did my hair and wore heels. And at least I have a husband who cares enough to notice when I need a night out. Not only that, but would sit through a chick flick with me. Magical? Maybe not to you. But it was certainly the first thing that came to my mind today when I read my blog description for inspiration,

I will choose one moment a day of beauty, joy, and emotion to write about. I am making a conscience choice to focus on these kinds of moments throughout the day as opposed to moments of self pity and anger.”

Mission for today? Accomplished.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Magical Moment 112, "How?"

Man, this blog is really gonna force me to put all my songs out there. Some are better quality than others. All are a work in progress. Here is one I started writing years ago, but only finished recently. Recording is a bit rough, but hope you enjoy. Click play at the bottom to hear recording.

Words and music by Elizabeth Grimes copyright 2009
Vs 1:
The first question asked when something goes wrong
Is, What have I done? Or, Why me God?
I can’t deny the thought’s crossed my head.
But what’s burning me up is another question instead.

How do you change overnight when you swore that you’d love me for the rest of my life?
And how do I make it through the night without you here to hold me and be by my side?
And how do I trust again when you’ve broken every promise and word you’ve ever said?
Just tell me how feelings that strong can be so convincing and then go all wrong?

Vs 2:
I would have bet my life that you’d still be here
When I’m old and I’m gray in fifty or more years.
You swore up and down you’re love was secure
Til I finally was at ease and you made me fee sure.
There’s just one thing you didn’t explain
And I’d like to know, if it’s not too much pain.

How do you change overnight when you swore that you’d love me for the rest of my life?
And how do I make it through the night without you here to hold me and be by my side?
And how do I trust again when you’ve broken every promise and word you’ve ever said?

I’m begging for answers so answer me please.
If I could just read your mind to put mine at ease.

How do you change overnight when you swore that you’d love me for the rest of my life?
And how do I make it through the night without you here to hold me and be by my side?
And how do I trust again when you’ve broken every promise and word you’ve ever said?
Just tell me how feelings that strong can be so convincing and then go all wrong?

Repeat and fade

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Magical Moment 111, "The Grocery Store Song"

A goofy, angry, break-up song. Just for giggles. (video at the bottom)

"The Grocery Store Song" words and music by Elizabeth Grimes Copyright 2009

Vs1 :
Bout swallowed my tongue when I saw you in the check out line.
You smiled, said hi, and asked if you could help me outside.
Well no thanks. I’m good.
If I had twice this much to carry don’t think I would
Extend the courtesy and allow you to help.
Why don’t you run along and find someone else.
Someone whose life you haven’t yet wrecked.
If she’s stupid enough then maybe she’ll accept.
I think it’s only fair that she knew
what it is she’d be getting herself into
so before you go and ruin her life
you might wanna say something like….

Hi I’m a lying sack of dirt,
you can’t tell right now but I’m quite a jerk.
You won’t find out though for a long long time
after you’ve given me your heart, body, and mind.
I’ll tell you nice things and string you along
then when I leave you make you wonder what you did wrong.
Then you’ll be a wreck for years on end,
but no matter what your heart will never mend.

Vs 2:
Well, off you go and remember to watch your step.
The last thing we need is for you to fall and trip
And break your arm or gash your knee
or be in any kind of misery.
And just to show my feelings aren’t hurt,
I made you this t-shirt….it says

So take care, nice to see you, tell the family hi.
No, I can carry all my bags, but thanks and goodbye.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Magical Moment 110, "Perrito"

The little girl toddled through the freshly cut grass making short, rapid steps with her chubby, bare feet. Her toothless smile stretched across her face and she giggled with overflowing excitement. In her clumsy coordinated manner, she tumbled into the soft lawn but never took her eyes off her goal for a moment. Un-phased by the obstacle, she continued on and finally reached the little puppy.

She stood frozen in front of the wiggling little creature, unsure of what to do next. “You can pet her,” the lady coaxed, demonstrating how it’s done, “It’s okay.” The little girl reached out her tiny hand in imitation, but jerked it back when the puppy’s tongue licked it. She squealed, half terrified, half thrilled and soon worked up the courage to try again. This time, she touched the back of the puppy, where it was safer. The moment she touched the fur was as electrifying as a jolt of lightning. She shrieked again, even more overwhelmed with delight and adrenaline.

The cycle continued for a few more minutes, each touch fueled with a little more bravery until she was completely fearless of the puppy’s unpredictable movements and wet kisses. Then, after hearing her mother call, she wrapped her two arms around the little puppy’s neck and kissed its’ forehead. “Perrito,” she said to the lady. She turned around and toddled back across the grass to her mother.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Magical Moment 109, "But Sing"

This is a song I wrote in 2007, as my attempt at a pop song. It didn't start out that way, but as I recorded it in Garage Band, I got more and more ambitious with the different sound effects. I actually think it turned out okay. Someday, I will record my songs professionally and give them the justice they deserve.

Verse 1:
His eyes were black and filled with tears
when he asked me why can't I stay here.
His voice was warm, felt like the sun.
I said I belong to someone.

Oh but sing.
Don't you know it brings
joy when it rings
so beautiful.
Oh and know
that even though
it won't be so,
you're wonderful.

Vs 2:
There is a path that I have chose
and only God knows where it goes.
And there are gifts He gives to us.
And in His plan we all must trust.


And like a photo you'll always be there
bringing thoughts of someone who cared.
And every song on the radio
won't compare to when you...Oh...

Don't you know it brings
joy when it rings
so beautiful.
Oh and know
that even though
it won't be so,
you're wonderful.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Magical Moment 108, "Jellyfish Karma"

At last we meet again. Did you think I forgot? How could I possibly forget the searing pain you inflicted? The crippling agony that caused me nearly to drown? I fought the mighty ocean’s current with my useless limb, gasping for breath, struggling to escape your cruelty. And when at last I narrowly avoided death, you swam away, unscathed. Laughing. Mocking.

And for years the universe has led us to this moment. My moment of triumph and victory, for I bare witness to your cruel fate. My enemy has fallen, ne’er to harm again. The jellyfish that once stung me will sting no more. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” VICTORY IS MINE!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Magical Moment 107, "Beyond the Sea"

What a day. Well, I’m auditioning to be a performer on a cruise line for three to six months. I mean really, could there be a better job? Who knows if it’ll ever really work out. I wouldn’t actually do it unless Eddie could somehow get a job on the same line and we could go together. However, I thought I should audition and see if it’s even a possibility. The audition process is done by video, which I have to mail and postmark by this Monday. This morning, I set up good old Ray (my keyboard) in the living room, along with the video camera and tripod. I perfected the view, sound, and lighting. I did my make up and hair. I drank hot water with honey (for the throat). And then I sat down to record my audition.

The audition required that I first played a song of my choice. Directly after, I would open an envelope which was mailed to me, in front of the camera, and sight-read the 3 pieces inside. After I played the 3 songs, I would turn off the camera, practice for an hour, and then play the 3 songs again. There was to be absolutely zero editing of the video, in order to imitate a live audition as much as possible.

After I was mentally and physically prepared for my audition (nerves don't go away just because it's not in person), I sat down to discover that Ray was broken. I lent him to an elementary school so they could have a decent instrument to accompany them in their Spring Program, and when I got him back, 3 keys were stuck, rendering the whole keyboard useless. After a few panicked phone calls and minor melt down, I called the only repair shop within driving distance who told me two weeks minimum for a repair. I then attempted to use my lovely piano for the audition video, however the acoustics of the strong piano and my soft voice were a problem I could not resolve.

After Eddie's blessing and a moment of silence for Ray, I drove to Guitar Center where I purchased a brand new keyboard. It's beautiful of course, but it's no Ray. I lugged it home, re-set up everything for the audition, and finally got it recorded.

I tried to post the video, but the file was too large. Instead, I had to break it up into 2 sections and post on youtube.

So if you click here, you'll see the first section. That was the song of my choice and sight-reading 3 songs. You'll get to witness first hand my fabulous sight-reading skills (NOT!).
Click here to see the second section. I practiced the 3 songs for an hour and then played them again.
I'll keep you posted on the outcome!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Magical Moment 106, "Death Cab"

I listened to the lazy sounding 1930s music as it rang out, carefree on the radio. You know, the one where the clarinet solos throughout, and the piano clunks the solid 4/4 rhythm with spurts of high, tinkling 64th notes scaling chromatic riffs. The drums use brush sticks and you can still hear the static from the record needle. It’s the kind of music that would play if you were going to swing on a rope in slow motion, from a tree into the muddy, cool waters of the local creek. Only today, I wasn't giggling and drinking lemonade in the sunshine, I was clenching my knees with white knuckles, gasping with fear, and squeezing my eyes shut.

As the taxi drove down Flatbush Avenue, I felt as though I was on a runaway roller coaster trying to dodge small children and large oak trees. The driver shot in and out of the two-lane street, honking at pedestrians, merging lanes, and running lights. He was strangely at ease as he drove however, unlike me who is used to somewhat driving the speed limit and using my blinker before I abruptly cut someone off. To the naked eye, he drove like a careless maniac, but I began to see that he maneuvered with calculated accuracy and precision, the master of his domain. His experience made him an expert.

I watched with wide eyes as we zoomed past the hundreds of people swarming the area. Monstrous buses pushed cars out of their way. Pedestrians flooded the crosswalk long after the “do not walk” signal flashed. I focused on the contrast of the lazy, calm, and comforting music and the crowded, fast paced world outside my window and thought what an excellent sound track that would make for a movie. And although instinct caused me to fear for my life, I knew we would arrive safely to our destination. But there is nothing like a ride in a New York City death cab to make you feel so alive!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Magical Moment 105, "Domino Effect"

We’ve all had one of those days. When spilling your coffee leads to stubbing your toe, which leads to road rage and being late. Which inevitably leads to feeling frazzled and cranky for the rest of the day.
We’ve also probably had a day opposite of that. When getting your morning work out leads to choosing a nice outfit, which leads to a compliment, which leads you to compliment someone else. Which inevitably leaves you chipper and positive for the rest of the day.

Today was an interesting domino effect for me. I received beautiful flowers. After I put them in a vase of water and set them as the centerpiece for the table, I realized I needed to first clean off the table. The table and bouquet looked lovely, but the kitchen didn’t quite match after last night’s dinner dishes remained on the counter. So after that was cleaned up, the living room didn’t jive with the now clean kitchen. Before I knew it, I had a spic and span house, all thanks to my flowers. With a clean house, I felt relaxed and productive and able to focus on other things that needed to be done.

It was a very simple reminder that even the most seemingly insignificant things in life serve a purpose. And if we think about those details long enough, our mind would probably boggle at the possibilities and outcomes which they led to.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Magical Moment 104, "Blessings that Fall"

"Blessings that Fall" by Elizabeth Grimes

A simple bush, with leaves of green
Sat under blossoms of a cherry tree.

When the branches shook, the petals would fall
Onto the bush with no flowers at all.

A passerby exclaimed of the bush,
“I’ve never seen one with flowers so lush!”

His friend said to him, “No, look up higher.
It’s the falling petals whose beauty inspires.

The bush is not special, like you and me.
The Lord’s blessings fall and cause us to be.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Magical Moment 103, "Bird Watching"

When I was a little girl, I was pretty good at entertaining myself. I made up all kinds of pretend worlds and games that I quietly indulged in alone. I could lie in bed for hours and day dream the night away, or sit contently in the car as long as there was a window to look through and a radio.

One game I remember playing, was bird watching. Birds are beautiful and amazing little creatures. I didn’t bird watch with binoculars and a whistle, holding a bird species identification book and cataloguing my findings, I watched them and made up stories about them. Birds didn’t simply land in a tree for a moment and then take off never to be seen again. Each one had a life, a purpose, and family. They were on their way to or from a magical place or secret hideout. They were looking for their friends, who weren’t just birds. Friends included bunnies, squirrels, even bugs. Sometimes they got lost. Sometimes they played in the rain. Sometimes they showed off just because they knew I was watching.

When a bright red cardinal, or other colorful bird caught my eye, I would think, “What are you doing here, you pretty little thing? You should be in an exotic jungle or enchanted forest.” I imagined the colorful birds were the princes and princesses of the bird world. When the other birds saw them, they marveled at their beauty and felt honored to interact with them. Some of the colorful birds were gracious and humble about their status, but some were mean and arrogant. And although I loved seeing the rare beauties, I remember my favorite birds were the tiny, little swallows. Probably because at first, I thought that’s what baby birds looked like. But even as I grew older, I had a soft spot in my heart for the common, brown and gray swallow. They boasted no exquisite features, yet they were lovely. Their song was not unique or melodic, yet they sang with their whole heart. Their wingspan was not impressive like an eagle, yet they flew just as high.

When I grew up, I realized that I people-watched in much the same way I used to bird watch. When I played the piano at Lee’s Restaurant for hours on end, my eyes wandered from table to table imagining the lives of the patrons munching on fried chicken and onion rings. Soon, I became an expert in the subject, guessing what era and style of music they might want to hear, and it usually got me a tip from them before they left. I knew who wanted to hear “Sentimental Journey,” “Hotel California,” or something by Willie Nelson based on their clothes, age, and personality. And even when I got the song wrong, and they left without so much as a nod to the piano player, at least imagining their story entertained me, even though I was supposed to be entertaining them.

I still people watch, and bird watch. And I’m still impressed by grandeur and impressiveness that some display. But I still find myself in the end, rooting for the underdog. I mean under-bird.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Magical Moment 102, "A View of Central Park"

I thought I'd post an old article after walking today in the park.

"A View of Central Park"
by Elizabeth Grimes, written for JVH Media Group

If you’re a New Yorker, you’re familiar with the breath taking view of lush, rolling hills sprinkled with crystal ponds and shady trees, all framed by the concrete silhouette of the Big Apple’s city skyline. Central Park, opened in 1859, is home to nearly twenty-five million visitors per year and covers an astounding 843 acres in the midst of one of the busiest metropolises in the country.

The park is open year round and debate is up for when the best time to visit is. Some claim the fall colors are unsurpassable, while others prefer greenery and the company of ducks and geese in the spring months. The answer to which of the four seasons is the best time to visit, however, is any of them. Or better yet, all of them.

Each season provides an array of scenery and activities to suit the entire family. With the easy, comfortable temperatures of spring, also comes the opening of the Central Park Zoo in April through October. You can also cast your line in one of several ponds for catch and release fishing. Stifling summer heat is relieved at the Lasker Public Swimming Pool near the north entrance. In the fall, the 152 species of 25,000 trees will leave you in awe as they provide a vibrant, colorful backdrop for the park. When the snow falls, grab your skates and earmuffs and head to one of two out door ice skating rinks. And no matter when you come, there will be an endless choice of walking, jogging, and biking trails year round. Even horse back paths and carriage rides if you choose. Not to mention, enchanting playgrounds for the children and art sculptures for your viewing, including images of Alexander Hamilton, Alice in Wonderland, and even Balto the dog.

Take a rest and fuel up at restaurants such as Le Pain Quotidien. And of course there is nothing more New York than a hot dog with the fixins or cup of ice cream from a near by vendor.

Central Park is maintained daily with love and pride by the Central Park Conservancy to ensure that it remains the perfect place for you to relax on the lawn with a book, get some exercise, and appreciate both the natural beauty and historic value of one of the world’s most beloved National Historic Landmarks.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Magical Moment 101, "Me and Ray"

Willie Nelson named his guitar Paul. They’d been everywhere together, through rough and rocky travels in cities across the nation (where they received their education…sing along if you know it…). So I thought I should name my keyboard.

My weighted, 88-key, silver Yamaha (and stand) was a graduation/commissioning present from my Grandma Valencia, one of my biggest supporters. Its first home was in the tiny basement apartment below my Grandma Daugherty that I shared with my best friend. I wrote some of my very first songs inside those pink walls (yes, pink) with that keyboard. Its second home was El Paso, TX where after a long day of class (and other military related headaches), I pounded out my frustrations on the keys. Next it was Fayetteville, NC, where it aided me in the Soldier Show audition and tons of military banquets and events. Now we’re planted in NJ and together we make regular trips into Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s a heavy keyboard, not very convenient to carry. But I’ve got it down to a science now (and a case with wheels doesn’t hurt either).

I guess New York City’s been the roughest. I’m surprised that my mind is still fairly sound. All those years, my keyboard served faithfully in place of a real piano, and even though I have one now, nothing could ever replace good old Ray.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Magical Moment 100, "One Hundred"

Today is my 100th blog. I began writing “One Magical Moment Per Day,” to turn my attention away from the things in my life that I saw as failure. Writing this forced me every day, to search for something positive and inspiring, no matter how sad, angry, or hopeless I felt while pursing my dream of becoming a musician and performer. I didn’t know how long this blog would last when I wrote "Magical Moment 1." I remember being surprised that I was in the thirties, then fifties, and now the triple digits.

One thing is certain, I would not have made it to a 100 blogs, or made it 6½ months in NYC without support and encouragement from others. I cannot express the gratefulness I feel when I read a comment at the end of my blog, or see “like” under the facebook link. I would have given up long ago if not for my ever supportive grandmas, sisters, parents, husband, friends, and family. Sometimes I look for encouragement in quotes, and have shared some of my favorites below. But the most important encouragement I’ll ever receive comes from my friends and family, who make me feel like the most talented and successful person in the world. And it is because of them and for them that I’ll keep going.

"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there." ~ Will Rogers

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy" ~ Dale Carnegie

"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog." ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." ~ Robert F. Kennedy

"If your life is free of failures, you’re not taking enough risks." ~ Anonymous

"Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down." ~ Charles F. Kettering

"Don't be discouraged. It's often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock. " ~ Unknown

"And whatsoever ye do, do it hearitily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." ~Colossians 3:23
"Never, never, never give up!" ~ Winston Churchill

Friday, May 14, 2010

Magical Moment 99, "In the Booth, Without Excuse"

I was dreading my upcoming recording session after the last session (in my opinion) went terrible. I grew frustrated and disheartened as I tried to force myself to sound a certain way but never achieved the desired outcome. Eventually, after about 3 hours of work, we ended up scratching the entire session. I went home that night upset and with an aching throat.

I play once a week for a tedious musical theatre class for children. I sit behind the keyboard, plunking out the same melody over and over while watching the minute hand inch around the clock. But last week, the monotony broke when a guest instructor led the class. She coached and molded the children with ease, holding their interest…and mine. And when the children moaned that something couldn’t be sung the way it should, she asked them a question, “Is this something you really want to do? Sing on stage?” The kids all nodded yes. “The successful ones don’t make excuses, they just find a way to do it.” I felt as though I was one of the eleven year olds sitting Indian style on the wooden dance floor, entranced by the lady’s words.

The next day when I arrived at the Wall Street recording studio, I went with a no excuses attitude. When I still didn’t achieve the sound I wanted, I didn’t collapse into failure, I accepted my limits. I sang the song using the tools I knew I possessed, and left out the ones that I didn’t. Not because I’m not talented enough, or capable, but because it’s just not me.

With that acceptance, I made amazing progress - more than probably the last 2 sessions combined. My goal that night was to record the song with power, emotion, and beauty. And without excuses, I found a way to do it.

"Sick and Tired" words and music by Elizabeth Grimes, Copyright 2009

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Magical Moment 98, "A New Route"

Midway through my predictable run route (down the Boulevard 2½ miles and back up 2½ miles), I wondered what would happen if I took a left instead of a right. When I laced up my shoes this morning, I wasn’t in the mood to break my usual mold, or run harder or longer than normal, but I suddenly felt energetic, ambitious, and curious.

I made twists and turns, keeping track of the unfamiliar streets I was on. Suddenly I found myself at the foot of a tremendous hill, so steep that the sidewalk turned to stairs with a handrail to keep pedestrians safe. I rolled my eyes and decided to just attack the thing. Panting and exhausted, I made it to the top. I was welcomed with a breath taking view of the Empire State building and surrounding New York City skyline. It sat like the proverbial “city on a hill,” framed by lush, green trees, and a perfect sunrise. Of all the months I’ve lived here and ran the same route, I’ve never seen such a clear shot of the city. Now I have a new regular run route.

After running for just one more song (Tik Tok, the world’s most annoying song, but it’s too difficult to skip songs with my new iPod arm band), I turned to go back home. Now I would go down the hill, a welcome prospect.

It’s amazing what we can find if we break from our comfort zone, even a little. And yes, unexpected difficulties may arise, but it’s so worth it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Magical Moment 97, "Try A Little Tenderness"

Ok, so I post videos when I'm pressed for time or experiencing writer's block (in case you haven't noticed). But the thing is, I won't post a video unless it's something I'm absolutely proud of. So here is another song from the Montauk Club in Brooklyn.

"Try A Little Tenderness" is one of my favorite songs. I love to hear Michael Buble croon it, or Three Dog Night groove it. I recently added it to my repertoire and discovered I love to play it as well. Not to mention, it's loaded with great advice for some of the more clueless guys out there. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Magical Moment 96, "Venice in my Dreams"

Ever since I saw the movie, “Only You” with Marissa Tomei (love her!) when I was in sixth or seventh grade, I’ve been aching to go to Venice. I sift through Starving Artist paint sales searching for the perfect Venetian, framed scene of gondola, water, sunset, and romantic, brick buildings to fill that blank wall I’ve been saving in my living room. Still haven’t found the right one yet. I have tour books that tell me where and when to visit, shop, eat, and stay. Cliché or not, I don’t care. I want to ride in a gondola, eat lunch al fresco, and buy a pair of genuine, Italian leather shoes.

Of course now, I’m almost terrified to really go. If Venice didn’t live up to my expectations, I would be crushed. I’ve heard people say it’s not worth it. The water smells and the streets are narrow. I imagine Venice is much like New York City, in the way that some people see beauty and originality in every nook and cranny of the city, while others see garbage, crowds, and endless construction.

One thing is certain, I will always love Venice, whether or not I ever go, for the dreams it gave me, its beauty that inspired and influenced me, and some day, the lovely piece of art that will hang in my home.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Magical Moment 95, "Stormy Weather"

During a storm, there is only one thing to do. It requires no explanation, no metaphor, no analogy, no rhyme, no plot, and no puns.

Psalm 107:28:30: "Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses.He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Magical Moment 94, "Full of Grace"

After playing piano for a year and a half at a Catholic Church (though I myself am not Catholic), I picked up a thing or two about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Not that I didn’t know her story before. Mostly I thought of her at Christmas when the preacher preaches the annual “Christmas Story” and the angel tells her she would bear a son. We see her everywhere. She adorns the nativity set as a porcelain figurine, with a look of angelic, solemn peace. I am no mother, but I know a few of them, and something tells me she wasn’t always so angelic and peaceful. Even Jesus, being the perfect child that He was, probably gave her enough worry and anxiety to keep her at least slightly stressed out. Although we know in our hearts, she existed, it’s difficult to relate her to today’s reality. We keep her on a shelf. It’s easy to dismiss the real struggles, worry, and immense love she felt as a mother.

I heard several stories yesterday that were not so easy to dismiss. “Story Corps” is an organization that finds and allows people to tell their personal, emotional story. Yesterday was a Mother’s Day special. One son said to his single mother that every Christmas made him feel like a king, yet looking back, he realizes how completely broke they were. His mother explained that she never took a single sick day all year long. If she was sick, she worked anyway. At Christmas she was paid for those days and then she shopped at the thrift store in the rich part of town for presents. She added with a laugh, “That’s why I never told you that there was a Santa Clause. Cuz I didn’t want to give no man the credit for what I did.”

Another mother told the heart breaking story of watching her son be crushed by a car after it swerved off the road and flipped, landing right on top of her little boy playing in the front yard. The paramedic pulled her aside later and said, “Ma’am, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but your son was already dead when we got to him.” She then broke down in tears and explained how much that meant to her because she couldn’t stand the thought of him being in pain and needing her when she could do nothing.

That story made me think of Mary when she lost her son. The emotions in which these stories were told, right out of the mothers’ mouths, made me wonder about the pain and grief Mary bore. Can there be any greater grief than a mother losing her child?
So today, on this Mother’s Day, I am thinking about ALL the mothers I know, past and present. Because I cannot begin to fathom the amount of love, sacrifice, strength, and grace they hold in their hearts.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Magical Moment 93, "First Love"

She was seven years old the first time she set foot on a beach. As she made her way to the shore in childlike anticipation, she suddenly felt her heart sink in disappointment as she watched her feet step through the grass-overgrown sand. Styrofoam cups and plastic bags blew past her. There was no water in sight. She thought the ocean would look like it does in the movies, and miles of fine, sparkling sand would stretch out before her with deep blue waves reaching as far as she could see.

As she made peace with her crestfallen expectations, her bear foot stepped on something hard and sharp. She jerked back, angry at this stupid beach, and checked the bottom of her foot. No cut. She bent down to examine the culprit. As she grasped the object and raised it eye level, golden, liquid-like sand poured to the ground in a single, fluid stream. She was left holding a shell. A real seashell. Like on TV. Her mouth fell open in amazement as she traced with her fingers, the tiny, perfectly aligned ridges. The small shell was colored in shades of brown, white, and gray, so precisely blended, she was sure it had been painted by hand and then accidently dropped on the beach. It was cracked, missing half of its form. Still, it was the most fantastic treasure she’d ever come upon and she would keep it forever.

Suddenly motivated, she scanned the ground in fervent concentration, seeking more seashells. So intent was she, that she didn’t notice the grassy part of the beach was now behind her and lain out before her was the mighty ocean and miles of the uninterrupted beach she had sworn off earlier. Soon she spotted another shell. This one was shiny on the inside. Shiny and smooth, exactly what she always imagined a pearl looked like. What if it was made out of a real pearl? And she found it. Yes, this one would be an eternal treasure as well.

Now ravaged with the unbreakable focus of a hunter, she uncovered more and more seashells. Soon she found a pile of them and could not load her pockets fast enough. She would probably be on the news for uncovering so many, and museums would certainly want to buy some of them. But for now, she couldn’t bear the thought of parting with a single one. When one of the dozens fell out of her hand, she hastily reached for it, apologizing to it and dusting it off with the care of a mother. Soon, she would have to take them back to the car to make room for more.

She stood up to scan the beach for her next treasure site and as she looked from side to side, her mouth again dropped in amazement. It was the ocean. The real ocean, right there. She never fathomed it could be so large. The end was nowhere in sight, not side to side, or way in the back where the sky ended. She always thought the ocean would be like the pond by their house, only bigger. But the ocean was like land, it went on and on, only it was water.

She walked towards the wet sand next to the water where gentle waves washed up and down the beach. She just had to touch it. She guarded her shells, careful not to drop a single one into the ocean, and stuck her big toe in the water as it came up. It was cold, but she did it. She touched the ocean and now she would forever be a part of it. She sat down on the line between dry and wet sand with her dozens of valuable shells and watched the ocean, sky, and sand. She would never forget this day. All of her hopes and dreams for the ocean had not only come true, but had been surpassed. From then on, her heart would always belong to the sea.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Magical Moment 92, "More of These, Please"

This is a video of me playing for a cocktail party at the Montauk Club (which is gorgeous by the way) in Brooklyn, a historic building so old that when I asked where the restroom was on the 2nd floor, I was told I had to go to the first floor because when it was built, women weren't allowed on the 2nd floor.

It seems the majority of performance gigs I get (as opposed to accompaniment gigs) are for events such as restaurant and cocktail party background music. I love playing for those. I get to sit in a corner with a piano and play whatever I want. I know that people are listening, but not giving me a hundred percent of their attention, which takes some of the pressure off. I would be happy if I could do just one or two of these a week. That would fulfill my performance craving. It would be Heaven.

This song is "Lover Man," recorded by a ton of people, but my favorite version is Billie Holiday. When I played this for Ceil (one of my piano teachers from years ago), she said it sounds like Billie Holiday sings Gershwin because of the heavy bass and fullness in my style of playing. I took it as a compliment. There is one or two jumps in the video because I had to cut out some of the piano solo, or it would have been about ten minutes long. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Magical Moment 91, "Home of Buffalo Bil"

Another old one from college...

My Grandma in one of her extravagant Hispanic get-ups

"Home of Buffalo Bil" by Elizabeth Grimes

“Did your family go on a vacation this summer, hon?” asked my third grade teacher in a high pitched, deliberate tone with her hands on her slightly bent knees to maintain eye contact with me. “Yeth,” I had a slight lisp until I was ten and still do when I get nervous, so I’ve been told. “We went to North Platte.” After a moment of confusion, she laughed. North Platte, NE isn’t a typical vacation spot for most people. However, driving three hours to a tiny town in Western Nebraska and staying for two and a half days in the local Holiday Inn every summer as a child gave me memories that help define me still today.

Who even knows how we found out about it in the first place? My Grandma possesses an innate talent for locating community events from plays to rodeos to craft shows; in this case, Mexican fiestas. My Grandma, or Granny Pooh, as we so lovingly call her, is full-blooded Mexican. Her large family re-located from a small town in Mexico to 912 Peach Street Lincoln, NE where she was born and raised. After years of relatives and siblings moving in and out of the old house, my Grandma has come full circle and lives there once again. We just call the house nine twelve. The walls and shelves are decorated with sombreros, mariachi figurines, and family photos. She is responsible for dragging my sisters and I to every local Hispanic gathering in the surrounding area and of course, the Nebraska Land Days Hispanic Festival in North Platte, NE.

Planning for the June vacation began in May. My mother, a meticulous organizer, made charts, budgets, schedules, and dozens of lists that were to be carefully followed to the letter by my sisters and I when packing. Our outfits were planned, washed, ironed, and folded. Ziploc bags and Rubber bands bound together our games and plastic toys and they were placed in a duffel bag labeled, “car games.” She kept our meals for the weekend in a red and white cooler in the trunk to avoid the extra expense of fast food. Chicken and broccoli enchiladas were our breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the trip because they could be eaten without being heated (not the most appetizing meal, and I’m starting to think that’s why I was so skinny as a child). My grandma brought her faithful thermos of red Kool-Aid, a package of pecan shortbread cookies, and a supply of peanut M&Ms. The time of departure and each rest stop was carefully planned. We took the same route every year. We ate lunch at the same small town park halfway between Lincoln and North Platte and played on the same teeter-totter, my sister and I on one side, my Grandma on the other. We stayed at the same Holiday Inn (with a swimming pool). We knew we were nearly there when we passed the yellow billboard that said in red, old western style letters, “Welcome to the Home of Buffalo Bil” (the last ‘l’ was missing). I still remember exactly how to get to our hotel from I-80, where the pool is, and the ice machine locations (to keep the chicken and broccoli enchiladas cold). We arrived on a Friday, the fiesta was on Saturday, and we attended North Platte Baptist Church on Sunday with our junky 87 Buick (appropriately named Sludge) loaded up and ready to head home after a quick lunch.

On Friday, after we settled into our hotel room and my sister and I fought over who would share a bed with Grandma, my mother took us to the same old Buffalo Bill museums while Grandma went to the hotel lounge to hear the Mariachi band play and flirt with the available, over 60 señors.

My mother made everything as educational as possible. We read every memorial, plaque, and sign we encountered on our trip. We went to three museums every year: Buffalo Bill’s Ranch, Buffalo Bill’s Home, and the World War II Canteen. My sisters and I would have much rather been swimming in the hotel pool and playing the Little Mermaid, but I learned to love those museums over the years. I remember the exact layout of Bill Cody’s home. I remember where the piano was, I remember the picture of his daughter hanging in the kitchen. She died when she was three. I remember the illuminated, glass display case in the hall that held Bill’s jacket, hat, and pistol. I recall the vending machine in the barn where, if we were good, we were rewarded with a can of pop.

The World War II Canteen Museum turned out to be my favorite. I always got chills looking at the black and white photos of American Soldiers. That museum helped to embed in me the great love I have for my country, and ignited a spark that eventually led to my service in the military. We usually had the whole place to ourselves, and the same two, bored senior citizens who volunteered at the front desk eagerly gave us tours of the new displays. Manikins showcased the 1940s apparel. The low ceilings and beige, dirty linoleum floor added to the vintage atmosphere. A layer of dust coated everything, and it smelled musty. One exhibit was of two children playing the violin and clarinet, reminding me of my older sister who played clarinet, and myself who once attempted the violin. There was an iron lung, a fire engine, an old washer, a rusty typewriter, jewelry, photos, and more. In the back room sat an old upright piano. One year, I got the guts to play it, despite the “Do not touch” sign. I played “Sentimental Journey” and like moths to a flame, the seniors gathered around and clapped as I finished.

One year, my older sister and I got the giggles in the museum so bad (for some reason we thought it would be hilarious to call my mom, Slim), that my mother finally got fed up with us and sent us to the car, where we continued to laugh uncontrollably for at least another half hour.

On Saturday, we were up before the sun. It was the big day of the fiesta – the reason for our vacation. The local stadium was filled with activities that included a piñata, cakewalk, and a ton of food carts that made us salivate for beef and cheese enchiladas at eight o’ clock in the morning. On the stage, there were contests, music, and dancers. The dancers made me wish I had more of my Grandma and mom’s genes. With their gorgeous dark hair, and big brown eyes, I longed to look more Hispanic. I was hypnotized by the way the bright colors and lines on their skirts moved so fluidly with the rhythm of the music when their hands moved back and forth in perfect unison. Their heels stomped to the music on the plywood stage and they tied knots in ropes with their feet, all while dancing gracefully.

Another favorite event was the “gritar” (yelling) challenge. Contestants competed in one of two categories, the cowboy yell or the Mexican yell. The cowboys did a yodel-yell hybrid thing, while the Mexicans did a tongue roll and high-pitched laugh. Of course, the Mexican yellers always won. The jalepeño eating contest was next, which I am proud to say my Grandma won one year. She also won the costume competition, as did my little sister…I think. One year I sang and played “Solo Tú” and won $20 for first prize in the talent contest. Some were upset because I had green eyes, but most were supportive, commending my mother on my good Spanish and pronunciation. I’ll never forget the year Freddie Fender held a concert. My mother caught his eye and he waved to her. Since then we’ve constantly teased my dad about mom’s “boyfriend,” Freddie.

We left the fiesta sticky, tired, and cranky. Our suitcases were no longer neatly organized, but rather stuffed with wads of clothes, barely able to zip shut. Our Kool-Aid thermos was empty. My sisters and I no longer bickered in the back seat, but rather slept, using one another for a pillow. We were home by five on Sunday and welcomed by our dad waving us hello on the front porch. Next year, it would all happen again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Magical Moment 90, "Patience"

Patience is a virtue. Just not one of my virtues. The thing about impatient people is this. If you hurry, you’ll get there faster. If you get there faster, you’ll be done quicker. If you’re done quicker, you can move onto the next thing sooner. Getting more things done means a sense of accomplishment and productivity. Then again, it also means a constant state of anxiousness, half done projects, and disappointment when expectations are not met.

I remember as a little girl, stapling holes together in my dresses rather than asking my mother to sew them because I just had to wear it that day. Of course, the staples worked for an hour or two and then I was left with my underwear peeking through the pink, flowered dress pattern for the rest of the day.
I’ve cut my own hair since junior high because I can’t stand the thought of making an appointment and waiting til Thursday to make my hair look the way I want. Several times, this meant making the appointment anyway to fix my little mishap.

I can’t bear to contemplate the hundreds, nay, thousands of dollars spent in traffic, parking, and towing fees since I was 16. All because I didn’t want to park far away, or was afraid of being two minutes late for something.

How many spelling and grammar errors have you counted in my blogs? All because I can't stand to go over and over it, proof-reading.

My cookies are always under baked because I can’t wait for the timer to ding to eat that warm, gooey goodness. Okay, that one works because I like soft cookies.

Who knows if I’ll ever really become a patient person. But I know this much is true. You can get it done quick, or you can get it done right. I’ve learned that both are rare.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Magical Moment 89, "Ice Cream Picnic"

Have you ever had one of those days when you want to punch the wall, punch a pillow, or punch your husband for no good reason? I had one of those today. I agreed to do an accompaniment job that I shouldn’t have agreed to, because I knew it would stress me out way too bad. But did I listen to myself? No, I agreed and as a result spent the last several days pulling my hair out trying to learn all the songs from “Hairspray the Musical” and “In the Heights.” I’ve never seen either play.

Finally, I broke down and did something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I cancelled. I found a replacement pianist, gave her the music, and wished them all good-ridance. With that out of the way, I found myself in our disastrous little apartment, still working out the kinks to our new window air conditioner, and comforting a sick puppy who needs four doses of medication a day and breaks my heart every time she whimpers in pain. Oh not to mention a pile of laundry, I didn’t get my run in this morning, and it's been days since I've written an article I'm proud of.

After I bawled my husband out for….well, I don’t really remember why, he set out to do errands, and I tried to get things done. Feeling the walls close in, my chest tighten, and like I just might run away to become a mountain hermit, I really thought I might lose it for a minute.

A little bit later, my husband called me and told me to meet him by the picnic table behind the apartment building. When I arrived, he was waiting with ice cream. We sat outside, enjoying the breeze and green leaves, eating our ice cream. Together we broke down our to-do list one by one, deciding what was a priority and what was not. When we came back inside, things didn’t seem quite so overwhelming. At least I blogged. I have all day to write a decent article or two. And big deal if the laundry waits til tomorrow. Someday, when I learn to knit, I think I’ll knit this on a pillow: “It’s not as bad as it may seem. Have a picnic with ice cream!”