Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Magical Moment 146, "Bye Bye Blackbird, Hello Baby Peacocks!"

Once in a very great while, the planets align, the stars shine brighter, the sun glows stronger, and all is perfectly right in the universe. Today, on this last day of our piano hunt to play 60 pianos, throughout five boroughs, in two weeks, I experienced about two and a half minutes of this extraordinary phenomenon. To me, it was the definition of a "magical moment" to the core.

The Staten Island Zoo was one of our last stops on our piano journey. And of all the days and times to drive to this location, we chose Wednesday at exactly 2 pm, which coincidently is the exact day and time out of the entire week that admission is free at the zoo – Wednesday at 2 pm. Really!

We walked through the zoo searching for the piano, smiling at the children who were delighted with every living creature that surrounded them, from horses, to goats, to llamas. Eventually we found the piano. When I sat down to play, I noticed tiny little creatures scattering across the floor of the outdoor picnic pavilion. From the corner of my eye, I thought they could be mice or prairie dogs, but when I got a good look, I gasped with pleasure when I realized they were baby peacock chicks, so close I could scoop one up if I tried (and very nearly did). There were about four of the fuzzy, chirping creatures scavanging for crumbs with their mother nearby.

There, in the midst of sunshine, an outdoor piano, happy children, a beautiful day, and gorgeous peacocks and their baby chicks, I played “Bye Bye Blackbird.” Although magical moments occur everyday, I have a feeling those of this magnitude are much more rare. Enjoy the video…

To see my photos of our piano journey, click here.
To see more videos, click here.
To read other people's stories about the event, click here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Magical moment 145, "The Hunt"

Two hunters made their way through a jungle of stone, equipped with all the supplies needed to locate their target. They had been searching for days in the unbearable heat, with the sun relentlessly beating down and showing them no mercy. They rested, only briefly at a local watering hole, before continuing their pursuit.

Soon the hunters came to the known territory of their hunted. Their senses suddenly heightened when they became aware of its nearby presence. They squinted hard into the distance searching for its shape and turned their heads, cupping their ears while straining to hear its call. “Sh! I hear it.” One hunter said. “Is that it?” He pointed to the horizon. The targets wore excellent camouflage and blended into their surroundings with ease. “No,” the other hunter replied. “That’s a dumpster,” she said.

They stepped cautiously, knowing it could make itself known at any moment. The hunters were no stranger to this game. An amateur would think it was easy to find, given the small geographical area it’s confined to. But the hunters knew better. And suddenly out of nowhere, just like many times before, it made its distinct, unmistakable call. “There! Behind those trees.” They ran towards the sound and as they made their way to the clearing, there it was in plain sight, out in the open for all to see and interact with. The piano. “Sheesh, it’s about time,” said one hunter, “We’ve been wandering around Central Park for hours now.”

We have only 6 pianos left to see for Sing for Hope’s Play Me, I’m Yours project!!! Should be complete by tomorrow or Thursday at the latest.
To see all my videos taken at each piano, click here.
To see photos, click here.
To hear other people’s stories, click here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Magical Moment 144, "Stuck in the Middle"

I’ve heard of “middle child syndrome,” where the middle born child struggles with achievement issues, gaining attention, and even forming relationships due to their birth order. I’m not a psychologist, but I am certainly a middle child, and not just by birth. I’m from the Midwest. Financially, I’ve always been middle class. I never got outstanding grades, but never horrible ones either. I’ve never been gorgeous, or ugly. Too skinny, or too fat. Too tall, or too short. Too successful, or a total failure. Even my musical ability, in the world of professional musicians is average. I recently took the LSAT exam and received a score in the, yep, in the 50th percentile. One of my favorite TV shows is “The Middle” for crying out loud.

Sometimes I do get frustrated with this pattern however because I feel like I put an enormous amount of effort and care in these things, and yet still come out no better or worse than anyone else - like an ear of corn growing among the thousands in a Nebraska field. I spent a large part of my life hiding from recognition and the spot light, which I’ve never been, and still am not comfortable with. But, I’ve always had the desire to make my mark, contribute, and exercise my passions and gifts that I’ve been given in a meaningful way.

I take comfort in the fact that there are certain things that give me distinction. One is my faith and the fact that the Creator of the universe has seen fit to save me. The other is my husband and family, who make me feel unconditionally loved and accepted. And when I look at it that way, I suddenly realize how incredibly rare that is, and just how lucky I am.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Magical Moment 143, "My Student"

I haven't taken on many piano students. I taught 2 adorable children when I was in college, my Grandma (who now has a very respectable repertoire), and 1 student in Fayetteville. Teaching has never been my forte, because I think it's important to learn music theory, in which I am no expert.

Nevertheless, I've recently taken on a new student. I've found that he is diligent and eager to learn. After only one lesson, he made his musical debut in none other than the Big Apple itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, my husband...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Magical Moment 142, "North Platte Meets New York"

After a long day of piano hunting, Eddie and I sat exhausted in the dirt of Brooklyn's Prospect Park. We were waiting for the Texas Tornadoes to begin their free outdoor concert as we swatted mosquitoes and sorted through our pictures and videos from the day. We opted against the metal folding chairs placed in front of the stage for our own section of ground so we could lay out and let the sweat dry as we recuperated from our day's walking. We had no blanket to lay on, so we used the large floor mat from the back of my SUV, which worked well enough to keep us out of the ants and dirt.

I suddenly felt rejuvenated when at last the Texas Tornadoes made their grand entrance on stage with the compulsively catchy "Adios Mexico." I was surprised at the large crowd that made it out to see them. In my whole life, there are few people I know that have heard of the Tex-Mex group, let alone like them enough to make the journey to see them in concert. I was introduced to them in North Platte at one of Nebraska Land Day's Mexican Fiestas and I've been a fan ever since.

With the high energy music, unmistakable Tex-Mex rhythm, and 100 mile per hour accordion, I couldn't help but flash back to those North Platte Days. And of all things for me to see as they crooned, "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," I watched three little girls at the next tree over, dancing to the music. There were two slightly older girls and one much younger, still in diapers. They were all wearing matching dresses. The little one did her best to imitate her big sisters' movements as they all twirled their skirts and swayed to the music, making up routines and showing off for whoever was watching. The entire setting seemed surreal. Those girls experiencing a nearly identical experience to that of me and my sisters, only in New York instead of Nebraska. Yet their memory will be completely different and unique to them.

And of all the things to think about as I listened to the Tornadoes' renditions of "Hey Baby Que Paso" and "Is Anybody Going to San Antone," I thought of my sisters.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Magical Moment 141, "Duet"


Me in the middle of Time Square

This is the third day of my mission, playing all 60 pianos placed throughout NYC by Sing For Hope. I’m beginning to learn that every song I play is actually a duet. The other musical collaborator is the city of New York. When an ambulance races through the street, sirens blaring, that siren becomes a part of the song. A bicyclist, an obnoxious by stander, a honking UPS truck, they are all members of the harmonious ensemble.

I’ve been waiting for a piano located in a quiet area to play “Clair De Lune.” It’s time I accept there is no such thing. Instead it will play “Claire De Lune,” featuring the city of New York.

See photos
See videos
Read other people's stories

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Magical Moment 140, "The Irresistible Urge"

When I was a little girl, I couldn’t pass by a piano without playing it. I remember the half dozen old pianos scattered throughout my old church and school building. When we stayed late or arrived early for one of our many church related events, I entertained myself by finding an abandoned, wooden upright, and playing until it was time to go. I got my piano job at Lee’s Restaurant by simply asking the owner if I could play a song on the clunky, out of tune piano (with the encouragement of my family, due to my own shyness). To this day, If I am in the vicinity of a piano, sooner or later, I’ll find my way to it.
That’s why this project by Sing For Hope is so neat. There are others like me, who couldn’t pass up an available piano if their life depended on it. They come in all different skill levels and styles, but all have that same desire in common.

I met one such person in Central Park by the band shell. He hovered with attentive curiosity, over the shoulders of me and the other players. After my turn on the keys, I rose from the bench and noticed his hungry gaze.
“Do you play?” I asked.
“Well, yeah, but…” he down played his ability, but I thought there was something more.
“Play something.” I coaxed.

When he began to play, I saw immediately how much he underestimated himself. He was shy, nervous, and unsure of himself, but he loved to play. That much was apparent. And when his nimble fingers glided up and down the keyboard, I knew he also had talent. Whoever he was, I hope he keeps it up and never passes by a piano without being magnetically drawn to play it.
I had trouble uploading the video of this young man, but to see it on youtube, click here.

See photos
See more videos
Read other people's stories

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Magical Moment 139, "The Old Woman Who Played Chopin"


Today, I visited 13 pianos throughout Manhattan in my mission to play all 60 pianos within the 5 boroughs in 2 weeks! It was a day of blistered feet, sun burnt shoulders, and a parking ticket.

I was surprised at how many pianos seemed untouched, as if by standers were scared or unsure of its purpose, like in Saint Nicholas Park and Harlem Art Park. However, others, like the band shell at Central Park and the Lincoln Center, were swarming with both talented and eager players and grateful audience members.

My favorite moment today was as one of those audience members outside the Juilliard Building in Lincoln Center. I was waiting for my turn at the keys when an old woman walked by the piano carrying a backpack and several plastic grocery bags so full that the handles stretched and threatened to break all together. Long gray and black hair stretched down the back of her tiny frame as she stepped slowly with a hunched back. Her eyes suddenly lit up when she saw the instrument and she asked the girl at the piano if anyone could play. When the girl said yes, she smiled a mostly toothless smile, and began unloading her bags from her frail arms. She laid them at the base of the piano and when the bench was vacant, she took her seat. The by-standers were curious and no doubt skeptical of the woman’s musical abilities. Most of the players before her were likely students of Juilliard. But the woman was surprisingly confident as she placed her hands over the keys. She began to play. It was a beautiful classical piece by Chopin, Nocturn Op.27 No. 2.

It was clear to me that she knew every note, as if the muscle motion of her fingers were perfectly memorized decades ago. Perhaps she hadn’t played the song in years, or even a piano in years, but she played the entire piece from start to finish. When she was done, I clapped hard and she looked back at her applauding crowd with surprise and gratefulness. Still smiling, she slowly gathered her bags, placing them strategically on her back and arms, and continued slowly on her way.

For piano photos thus far, click here.
For videos, click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Magical Moment 138, "Play Me, I'm Yours"

After 8 months of living here as a struggling musician, there are areas of New York City that I know pretty well. But there are many I haven’t dared to explore yet. I’m comfortable with a handful of subway lines, but clueless when it comes to others. I still keep my laminated map of the city in my purse and can pull it out, orient myself, and figure out where to go in a matter of seconds, from the time the train stops til the doors close. In an effort to visit every nook and cranny of New York City and its 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island), I’m going to play 60 pianos in two weeks.

A nonprofit organization called Sing For Hope, has set up pianos on sidewalks and city parks throughout 5 boroughs. Any passerby can show off their skills on one of the colorful pianos marked with the words, “Play me, I’m yours.” After the two weeks, the pianos will be donated to local schools.

I began my trek yesterday, knocking out 5 pianos in lower Manhattan - Battery Park, City Hall Park, TriBeCa Park (2), and Seward Park in Chinatown. My favorite location was Seward Park in Chinatown. As soon as I started playing, children gathered around me and asked to hear lullabies. I played Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and The Eensy Weensy Spider for them. Those are the best moments. What is the point in playing music, if not for others to enjoy?

This is gonna be hard, but fun! I’ve started an album of pictures for each location on facebook. To see more photos, click here. To see videos, click here. I’ll keep you posted!

Short video clip from Seward Park:

video

Monday, June 21, 2010

Magical Moment 137, "Opportunity Taken"

"I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one."
~Mark Twain

Today I struggled with whether or not to run. A small, seemingly insignificant choice on the surface, but with several underlying effects. See, I haven’t run in several days, and the more times I miss a run, the more likely I’ll miss tomorrow’s run as well. Not to mention, I knew the next several days would be busy and I probably wouldn’t have time to get a good one in. On the other hand, I already missed the early morning hours of bearable, cool weather. Now it was hot, sunny, and 90 degrees. All things considered, I decided to suck it up and go for it. I ran through 4 towns; Lodi, Hasbrouck Heights, Wood-ridge, and Carlstadt (in northern New Jersey lingo, that amounts to about 4½ miles). And wouldn’t you know it? The moment I finished, out of breath and light-headed from the humidity and sun, I walked up the cement stairs to my front door and…rain.

A trivial coincidence to most, but to me, it was a daily reminder of what opportunities we can choose to take, or not take. I like that movie, “Yes Man,” with Jim Carey. Not just because it’s hilarious and they go to a Husker football game, but because it focuses on that very subject. We can look back and say I should have tried that, or we can look back and say I did try that.

God has so many opportunities and blessings waiting for us and gives us the free will to choose them, but sometimes fear, pride, or laziness holds us back. I’m thankful for my reminder today, and maybe tomorrow will be an even longer run, or some other unplanned blessing, should I choose to accept it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Magical Moment 136, "A Dreamer Whose Dreams Always Came Last"

One of the reasons why I am out here near New York City, pursuing a music career is because of my dad. Somehow I inherited his passion and entrepreneur spirit. He, like me, has always had a thousand things in his head he’s wanted to try. He, like me, has been known to make impulsive, life changing decisions in order to follow his dream. He, like me, is always looking for the next opportunity to commit to. He, like me, has seen his share of success and disappointment.

He has always had a love for flight and once earned his private pilot’s license. The expense and time commitment makes it a difficult hobby to keep however. Maybe if he could go back in time, flight wouldn’t be the dream that got away, but like the song, ”A Builder” says, he is “a dreamer whose dreams always came last,” while providing for his family came first.

My goal and dream is to become a successful musician, performer, and songwriter. I learned from my dad the importance of dreams, the hard work that goes into fulfilling them, and that one of the worst feelings in life is to have a regret that you didn’t give it your all. But whether I win or lose in my endeavor, I do know that he is proud of me, and that is one success I know I've accomplished.

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward. For there you have been and there you will always long to return."
-Leonardo Da Vinci

Drawing of my father, Rick Daugherty, that I drew for his birthday 2/10




Saturday, June 19, 2010

Magical Moment 135, "Texas Chicks"


There is a charming farmers market and petting zoo in Wyckoff, NJ. You can stock up on fresh vegetables and scrumptious desserts. You can experiment with the local recipes for salad dressing and homemade salsa, canned in quaint, glass jars. And when you’re done, you can pet and feed the livestock with dry crackers and leafy greens. Today we saw rabbits, goats, pigs, sheep, ponies, turkeys, and even baby chicks. Though the farm is only 15 minutes from our apartment, I felt like we were in a completely different world. It was as though we stepped through a wormhole from the crowded, over populated streets of our New Jersey town and suddenly found ourselves in the open heartland of, well, Texas.

The first time I visited Eddie’s family at his grandparents’ farm in Texas, I knew it was something special - relaxed, happy, warm (not just the temperature, although wow Texas gets hot), and maintained with love. Somehow his grandpa knew I would be happy tending to the baby chicks. Of course the yellow, fluffy, sleepy babies stole my heart as soon as I laid eyes on them. Once he even placed a tender egg in the palm of my hand and started ripping off the shell, piece by piece. He coaxed me to do the same and soon a tiny, wet, blind chick was stumbling around in my hand, looking for warmth. Whenever we go back to visit, I always have to check on my chicks.

Yes, I’m from Nebraska. No, I wasn’t raised on a farm. Although sometimes I think I would be good at it. I would have sheep for Joy to herd. I would have an endless supply of baby chicks (but when they grew up, I wouldn’t eat them). Maybe some ducks, bunnies, and fish. It’s one of about a dozen possible lives that I imagine for myself in the future. Who knows if it will ever happen. If not, I am content watching Joy herd the cat. I’ll keep throwing bread to the squirrels. And of course, I’ll visit my Texas chicks every so often.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Magical Moment 134, "Throw Some More Dirt"

I recently posted this video on facebook but hesitated posting it on my blog because it's...well, kind of a depressing song. And while I like depressing songs because of the emotional depth, honesty, and uniqueness that they require to write, record, and share, others just find them, well, depressing. But it's my blog so I can post whatever I want!

I wrote this song the day after my dog of 14 1/2 years, Duchess, passed away. In addition, I had just moved to the New York City area about a month or two before and I was thoroughly disappointed with lack of music gigs I was getting...or wasn't getting. So, that, combined with Duchess's passing made for one heck of a sad song. Plus I think Eddie was at drill or something, so I was alone that day. It's a style of country and blues and as my mother said, "It worked for Tammy (Wynette), it can work for you!" I guess we'll see. Enjoy.

“Throw Some More Dirt”
Words and music by Elizabeth Grimes Copyright 2009
Vs 1:
Another bus, another train, but it always ends the same.
Thanks, but no thanks. We decided to go another way.
I spent 6.80 on this ticket round trip into the city.
I’m about a thousand bucks in the hole.
I keep sayin that I’m gonna get a real job one of these days.
One I don’t have to worry bout what it’s gonna pay.

Chorus:
Throw some more dirt in the hole
That buries the dreams of my soul.

Vs 2:
Little girls they wanna be a mother, a ballerina,
A doctor, a teacher, a traveler, or a lawyer.
But look at me. I wanna be anything but what I am.
A crazy girl chasin dreams without a fighting chance.
I keep sayin that I’m gonna get a real job one of these days.
One that doesn’t make me feel like I’m diggin my own grave.

Chorus:
Throw some more dirt in the hole
That buries the dreams of my soul.

Bridge:
Walkin home in the rain,
Through the alley, through the pain.
A dream that hasn’t yet died,
But it’s bein buried alive.

Chorus:
Throw some more dirt in the hole
That buries the dreams of my soul

video

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Magical Moment 133, "Exceeds the Standard"



Well this one is easy! Today the magical moment was when my wonderful husband, Eddie, graduated his final phase of BNCOC. Though it was not the most difficult training he's been through in the military by a long shot, each unit presents different challenges and he certainly had his share to deal with over the last few weeks.

Eddie's personality in uniform is vastly different than when he's at home in shorts and flip flops. He is all business and both obeys and enforces every regulation (with the exception of fraternizing with an officer, HA!). Many of his peers and subordinates find this difficult to deal with. Often these are the ones lacking discipline and pride in what they do, inevitably creating personality conflicts. He often grows weary, feeling as though he's fighting a losing battle of enforcing standards to those who don't seem to care.

As we talked by phone the last few weeks, he often said how everyone hates him. They roll their eyes when he makes on the spot corrections and quotes the regulation to prove his point. He was terrified of peer evaluations, fearing he would be ranked last and pummeled with criticism. But on the day of his graduation, I saw a completely different reaction from his class mates. They shook his hand, even hugged him afterwards. One thanked him for encouragement after a low test score crushed his morale. His roommate said it was an honor to live with him the last few weeks. And though some only acted out of courtesy and politeness, all of them had a common genuine respect in their eyes.

And like everything he does, he excelled beyond the class average. I swelled with pride as he walked across the stage. I even let out a "Hooah," which I hardly ever did when I was in the military, let alone completely out and in civilian clothes. But it couldn't be repressed as the announcer said, "This NCO exceeded course standards." Never had a doubt.

video

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Magical Moment 132, "A Squish"

It started one day when my little nephew, Zach, and I were playing trains on the living room floor. I was so overcome by his chubby cheeks and dimples that I had to scoop him up in my arms and give him a big hug. As I squeezed the little blonde butterball, I said, “Squish!”

The next day I watched the 1½ year old toddle around Granny’s kitchen, looking for something to entertain him. I went to the toy box. “Come on Zach, let’s play trains.” Trains were old news. He ignored me and suddenly became fascinated with the garbage can lid. “Zach,” I mock-scolded him and put my hands on my hips. “Come over here right now so I can give you a squish.”

Suddenly his bored expression broke into a wide, sparse-toothed smile as he let out a nervous giggle. I coaxed him again. He took a few small steps toward me and raised his two arms shoulder level. “You have to come closer for me to squish you.” I persuaded. His anxious laugh came out in spurts now as he tried to hold it in. I planted firmly, forcing Zach to take each cautious step towards me. When he was close enough to grab, I put my arms around him in the open spot he’d left for me. “One…two…three…SQUISH!” I said as I squeezed his rib cage quickly, then released. The force squeezed out a tiny, unexpected yell from Zach, like air from a whoopie cushion, followed by uncontrolled laughter. I leaned back, allowing him the freedom to leave if he wanted, but he remained, waiting for another with his arms up. “One…two…three…SQUISH!” Another yell, then laughter. From then on, whenever Zach was bored, cranky, or pouty, all he needed was a good squish to cheer him up.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Magical Moment 131, "Everyone Likes Pizza"

Okay, so if I could go to the pet store and buy a little baby squirrel, I would have done it a long time ago. Maybe it’s the way my grandpa used to hand feed his backyard squirrels bread crumbs and dried corn cobs on the deck, or maybe it was the little family of them that had babies every spring until the tree was cut down, but I’ve always loved those little critters. Joy loves them too. Loves to chase them.
Each morning, when the neighborhood squirrels are at their most active, Joy is chomping at the bit to chase them down and herd them into a corner. Of course she wouldn’t know what to do with one if she ever caught it.

My neighbor and I sometimes leave bread for the squirrels, she even named one Harry. Today I saw Harry trotting through the grass to his tree home with not a light slice of bread in his mouth, but an enormous slice of pizza. I’m not sure, but I think it was the leftover Pa Pa Johns that Eddie and I ate last week and just got around to throwing the box in the dumpster. I watched from my front porch as Harry struggled up the tree trunk with the slice causing unforeseen obstacles. Gravity forced him to inch skyward, tail side up so he wouldn't fumble over the pizza. Although he dropped it and had to start over several times, eventually he made it, and I was glad. After all, everyone likes pizza.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Magical moment 130, "Flag Day"

Today I walked aimlessly through the streets of New York City. I had an appointment and the other party forgot, or just stood me up, who knows which. Since the bus fare was recently raised to $8.50 for a round trip into the city, I thought what a waste it would be to just go right back home. I wandered to Macy’s to see if the swimsuit I wanted was on sale yet. Nope. I wandered past Tiffany’s, I don’t know why, it’s just so pretty and sparkly. I sat on a park bench and pulled out my laminated map of the city streets and subways (I never leave home without it), looking for someplace I might want to go. Unfortunately nothing really struck me. So I wandered back to the bus station.

I took my time, avoiding the crowded stuffy subways, and walked up town towards Port Authority, when I heard a drum roll from only a few feet away. I turned my head and saw the beginning of a parade, when it suddenly dawned on me...it’s Flag Day! And what luck, I ended up at the very beginning of the processional with an unobstructed view. The snare drum counted off to 4, setting the beat for the uniformed men and women who were carrying the colors to march in rhythm. Badadada Dum! Dum! Dum, dum, dum. I watched the Marine Color Guard, followed by the Navy, then Air Force, then Army. I watched rows of children in matching red, white, and blue t-shirts waiving their flags and skipping along behind the military. The parade processional was short, but high spirited and serious about their duty. After the final child trotted past, I turned to continue on my path.

Suddenly, now about a block away, I heard the distinct sound of bagpipes. A few seconds later, I was able to make out the tune they played, “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” I took a step forward, hesitated for a moment, then halted. I put my arms at my side with my hands in a fist. My feet made a “V” with heels touching. I stood at attention, semi-mouthing a word or two until the final note rang out. The parade was now far in the distance. No one noticed as I broke my rigid stance and carried on my way. In an aimless city, on my aimless way, I found something to lock onto, if only for a few moments.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Magical Moment 129, "Even the Hard Notes"

Life is full of ups and downs. Weeks, even days have high moments followed by unexpected low ones. And sometimes they occur simultaneously so you’re not sure which one to feel. Happy and thankful for certain things, yet sad and confused by others.

A song can’t be written with only one note. A song can’t even remain in one register. It requires use of the whole keyboard, beautiful harmonization, and even ugly clashes. - those usually last only for a second however before they’re resolved.

I suppose if you look at life like you look at a musical piece, it all makes sense in the end. I look at a sheet of music and am terrified and intimidated by its complexities. I wonder how I will ever work through the 16th notes, precise rhythms, and unusual key. But I always get through it the same way, one note at a time, one measure at a time, one page at a time. There are sections I don’t understand, that confuse, anger, and frustrate me, and those take longer to work through. The composer sure knew what they were doing however, because after practice, it sounds just like it should.

I must not get angry at the Composer, He knows just what He’s doing. In the end, I’ll understand. I’ll look back, play it in my mind, and think, “What a beautiful song.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Magical Moment 128, "Back Stage"

Last night, I drove over the George Washington Bridge, sipping hot water and warming up my voice with vocal exercises learned from high school choir class. I was on my way to Clark Theatre at Lincoln Center in Manhattan to perform in a benefit concert for the World Mission Foundation. It’s been a while since I’ve performed on a stage in front of an audience. Parties, restaurants, and bars are a completely different venue. People are having conversations with one another and are generally occupied with something other than giving their full attention to the musician providing background music. I am free to make mistakes, forget lyrics, and play wrong chords in those instances. But not for a performance. A stage requires perfection. A mistake is seen by hundreds of eyes.

In my incessant over preparation, my voice became hoarse the morning of, leaving me to exhaust every home-remedy for sore throat relief I could imagine. When I arrived at the theatre, I was first shown to the dressing room, complete with mirrors and lights. The stage was all black, displaying only microphone stands and a black grand piano. I spent several hours back stage, getting ready and speaking to the other performers. We were all amateurs, nervous about our spotlight moments, except for one performer, Ricardo Molfa. He has toured the world with his classical, Spanish guitar, gracing stages with entertainers such as Gloria Estefan.

His smiling face and relaxed demeanor showed no trace of anxiousness. While myself and others waited in the stage wings jittering with anticipation, he remained carefree in the dressing room, having an impromptu jam session with his musical partner.

I went back to the dressing room to reapply lip-gloss and grab some more water. As soon as I entered the room, I knew I had walked in on something special. The two guitarists were harmonizing and picking their strings with such exquisite talent and love for their music, that I immediately picked up my camera. As I held it up, Ricardo grinned at me. I quickly switched the setting from camera mode, to video mode and when I made a “keep it going” gesture with my hand, he smiled again and gave me about 2 minutes of uninterrupted magic.

Last night was a wonderful night, one that made me really think about the beauty and various aspects of performing. I concentrate so hard on perfecting what I know others will see in the spotlight and on stage. But sometimes they see without us meaning to. Back stage is where some moments can be truly inspirational and unbelievable. I hope you enjoy this clip.

video

Friday, June 11, 2010

Magical moment 127, "A Peace of My Heart"

I’ve written songs, blogs, and more about my anxiousness and worry. I suppose some people are just more inclined to be constantly restless and apprehensive. I don’t know if I’ll ever get past it completely.
Yesterday, it stormed all day long. I was out running errands around town in the pouring rain. It’s frustrating because I don’t get my morning run in, and Joy with her boundless puppy energy is cooped up in the house all day, running laps around the dining room table and torturing the cat. Sometime in the afternoon, the gray, dim light that poured in through the living room window mini blinds, turned into a warm, bright yellow. I peeked out and discovered the beauty of a perfect summer afternoon. Joy and I rushed outside and played fetch until she was exhausted, which only took a few minutes. She tore up and down the grass, chasing birds and barking in such a frenzy, she tired herself out in no time. It was a good thing too because as we walked towards the front door, I felt sprinkles on my neck. By the time we made it into the house and up the stairs, the clouds were back and the rain continued. How nice it was to that short period of peace.

There are moments amidst my endless fretting, when I experience one brief moment of comfort, reassurance, and faith. One clear second of completely trusting God and the burden is lifted. I am working on stretching that moment longer. But sometimes, I live off of that moment. I couldn’t have gone on without it. And although often the storm returns, I am forever grateful for that moment when I experienced a peace of my heart.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Magical Moment 126, "The Bottom Line"

Why must we get angry over small things? Why do we judge others for doing something that we may personally disagree with? I have spent a lot of time with those who believe men must have short hair, women must wear skirts, the Lord’s supper must be taken only on a certain day, too much make up is evil, women should aspire to be mothers and wives and nothing more, drums in music is evil, along with public swimming pools and movie theatres. If these things, as well as others were not followed to the letter, there would be judgment. Not from God, but from other fallible human beings. 

To most people that idea seems ridiculous. However, even those “most people” don’t realize that they too have their own “rules” to be followed in order for their idea of a reasonable standard to be met.

I have caught flack for joining the military, marrying an NCO, even looked down upon because my husband and I have no children. Everyone thinks they know best. But only One knows best for me, and that is the Lord.

What matters? I am a Christian. And I am a Christian because when I was 5 years old, I understood that I make sinful choices every day of my life and I asked God to forgive me. I asked Him to save me. And He did. He was able to do so because many years ago, He died in my place, taking the punishment for my millions of awful decisions and sins, allowing me entrance into Heaven. And that’s it. That’s the bottom line. I know many people who have done the same thing. Some of them are Catholic, Lutheren, or no religion. Some of them listen to rap music, smoke cigarettes, or have had children out of wedlock. And some of them may do things that I personally don’t agree with, but it doesn’t matter, because they have done the one thing that does matter.

I believe there is a time and place to correct behavior when necessary, but there is also a correct way to do it. With love, compassion, and acceptance, like Christ showed to ALL – prostitutes, thieves, murderers. Surely we can strive to replicate that attitude towards all as well – all races, all sexual orientations, all genders, all religions – despite our personal feelings.

All I know is that if stacked my sins one on top of the other, I would hang my head in shame. And even if I compared my stack of sins to another person’s stack, it wouldn’t matter because it’s all sin. Even the person with the smallest sin stack in the world can’t enter into Heaven without the Lord’s salvation. So what does it matter? Thank you Lord for saving me. Let me act in a way that shows others what the true “bottom line” is.

Rom 14:1-6

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Rom 14:10
You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Magical Moment 125, "I Still Think About You"

This is a song I wrote probably 6 years ago, but never really knew the right arrangement until Norah Jones came along. Then I knew I wanted that acoustic, simple sound with the piano as an embellishment, rather than carrying the entire accompaniment like many of my other songs. Hope you enjoy. Recording below.

“I Still Think About You”
Words and music by Elizabeth Grimes Copyright 2009
Verse 1:
You didn’t break my heart.
You didn’t crush all my dreams.
You never mistreated me.
We agreed it wasn’t meant to be.
We casually said goodbye
Both smiling as we walked away.
No anger pain or sadness.
Another boy, another day.

I never was in love with you.
And still I swear this is true.
But ever now and then
I have a passing thought of you.
A fleeting moment of memory
When I bite my lip and smile.
And think of that brief time
We were together for a while.

Chorus:
I still think about you.
Sometimes I wish you’d just call.
One more try could be the last try.
Could be the end of it all.
Could be the end of all our searching
Or a crash and burn mess.
And though I think about you
We’ll never know I guess.

Verse 2:
I shouldn’t still want you.
We had no raging fervent fire.
But I often wonder
Is me you desire?
If you saw me for a moment
Do you think you’d feel the same?
And have the urge to rekindle that spark we had again?

Bridge:
It’s not a burning question
Just a nagging curiosity
If we had once more to try it,
Would you wanna be with me?

video

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Magical Moment 124, "The Wonder of Everywhere"

My car has over 106,000 miles on it, nearly each and every one of them driven with myself at the wheel. Some of what I pass is familiar, and much is brand new. There are rolling green hills in North Carolina that could pass as a view from Ireland. There is farmland in Pennsylvania that could be the inspiration for a painter’s masterpiece. And there are sunsets in Nebraska that couldn’t be more beautiful, even if they were set over the Italian waters of Venice.

When I hear of people who grew up in strange and exotic places like Key West, or Hawaii, I wonder what amazing things they've seen and experienced. What unique stories they must have to tell. They must really have special lives unlike any other.

During my travels, I've realized that it’s not just the pictures on postcards that are magical. I know of a place called the Russian Bottom in Lincoln, NE, where the majestic blare of a railroad train horn brings unmatched awe and wonder to little boys on a daily basis. I once heard of an ordinary city park that spurred the imagination of three little girls, and bonded them together for life. I saw a grassy hill that children rolled down with delight and once at the bottom, they tasted the sweet drops from the growing honey suckles flowers. I even heard of a buffalo statue that was the secret place of mischief for some young brothers.

So when I pass a beautiful large house, complete with a pond and horse stables, I may wonder for a moment, “What an amazing life,” but I know for a lifetime what unique wonders I’ve seen, that they will never know.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Magical Moment 123, "Thy Will Be Done"

There are some days, like today, when I know I need God's help. I know that I can't do it alone and I must ask Him to carry me through. But like everything else in my mind, I talk myself crazy. I'm not sure what I should say. I'm afraid I'm asking too much, or asking for something other than God's will. I feel guilty, like maybe I only pray when I want something, or that He should devote His attention to those really in need, the poverty stricken, the abused, or ill. All I know is I need help and to get help, I must ask Him for it.

There were times, I'm ashamed to admit, when I would simply forgo prayer all together for all the above reasons. It wasn't until recently, He reminded me what to do. Now, when I feel this way, I simply revert to back about 20 years to Sunday school and recite the Lord's Prayer. I close my eyes, take a breath, and pray every word, allowing the words to flow with fervent conviction when needed. The Lord knows what's really in my heart, what I really need, and what I'm really asking for. I no longer feel like a bumbling idiot, trying to concoct a meaningful prayer, like a practiced preacher from the pulpit. I finally learned the lesson that He taught His children so many years ago. "This is how you should pray."


Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Magical Moment 122, "Neurotic Crazy"

“There is no substitute for hard work.” –Thomas Alva Edison

My heart tells me this is true, but my mind tells me, ”Maybe you’re not working hard enough. Work harder. Do more. And if you don’t reach your goal, it’s simply because you didn’t work hard enough.”
We’ll see soon enough. Tomorrow, in fact. If I don’t reach this goal, I hope I can handle it. I hope that my reward for recently recognizing my neurotic crazy and trying to correct it, will be to reach this goal. If not, I may slip back into neurotic crazy. But I hope not. But if I do reach this goal, how will I ever learn to cope when I don’t reach one in the future. Maybe I’ll never learn. But I’m trying to learn. I’m doing it again, aren’t I?

C'est la vie. What will be will be. I can say it, now if I could only believe it. Nope, still not there yet. But I’m trying. God, can I have points for trying? I guess we’ll see after today, because points is what I need.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Magical Moment 121, "Airborne Subway"

I had the weirdest case of déjà vu today in the city. I took the subway up town to spend some time at Central Park on this beautiful warm afternoon and buy Goose an ice cream from one of the local vendors.

After walking block after block through the packed city, I hoped and prayed for an empty seat on the stuffy, crowded subway car, but to no avail. Instead I was pushed to the middle of the aisle where the only way to balance myself as the train raced across the railway, was to grab the overhead steal bar. I reached up with my left hand and grasped the horizontal bar with my fist. Only a few steps in front of me was the side sliding doors that I would exit through. I looked down and noticed my feet were shoulder width apart, one slightly in front of the other. Then I realized that my right hand was placed over my purse, which had fallen to the front of my waist to keep the crowd from knocking it off my shoulder.

That’s when I realized it. If the metal bar was a static line, my purse was a reserve chute, and the subway was a C-130, I would be seconds away from jumping out of an aircraft at 1,200 feet. Suddenly the subway jerked sharply, nearly knocking me off my feet, synching the deal. Yep, I was in the twilight zone. If only I was carrying 80 extra pounds of equipment, a weapon, and it was midnight.

Who knew all those jumps onto Sicily Drop Zone would prepare me for a life in the city? And although I was dozens of feet below ground instead of hundreds of feet above ground, and metallic strappy sandals replaced combat boots, it was still…a trip.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Magical Moment 120, "Dive In"

Today, we made our first trip to the Jersey Shore since our move to this area. It was complete with unnaturally toned muscles, orange-tanned bodies, and a long, wooden boardwalk lined with funnel cake vendors and carnival rides. I’ve heard that the freezing ocean up here is not fit for swimming until at least mid-July, but the beach was packed with sunbathers nonetheless who worked up the nerve to go mid-calf into the chilly water. Seagulls flew overhead, shrieking as they swooped near open bags of potato chips. Sea shells covered the fine, golden sand. Umbrellas sprang up from the ground to form an insignificant, but appreciated dot of shade among the barren dunes that stretched on either side of us as far as we could see.

Eddie, Goose, and I laid on the beach relaxing and getting some much needed color on our pasty legs, when the sweat began to trickle down our faces. We decided to sacrifice our toes and ankles to the cold water in exchange for momentary relief from the heat. As the foamy waves approached the shore, we braced ourselves for the shock, which did not disappoint. The second the water rushed over our feet, we retreated back to the dry sand, shrieking in disbelief at the cold. As we looked far out into the ocean, we saw one brave pioneer, fully immersed and swimming in the water. The very idea seemed absolutely ludicrous and we immediately pegged him as a fool, vowing then and there that we would never be seen out there.

As soon as we decided that, I thought that maybe we were the fools. After all, it was the ocean, on a beautiful hot day, lifeguards were on duty, and we were in our swimsuits. Why on earth wouldn’t we give it a go? And suddenly I knew that I would. In a moment of impulsive determination, I marched further into the freaking freezing water and suddenly dove headfirst into the waves. I won’t lie, it knocked the wind out of me. I came up for air, gasping and yelping, then fought my way through the salty current back to land where Eddie and Sarah stood with eyes wide in disbelief.

After a few moments of recovering from the sheer shock and slight fear of hypothermia, I turned to Sarah, “Come on Goose. You’re going back in with me.” And although she put up a brief protest, I knew that I could count on her. I coaxed her into the water and we waited for the upcoming wave to crash at our feet. Then I gave the command “Now!” and we plunged into the sea. This time, my shrieks were far fewer and I managed to paddle past the heavy waves into the calm. We lasted only a few minutes before we retreated back to dry land. After that, we worked up the nerve to make several more trips in and out. After our final dive, as we walked back to the safety and warmth of our beach towels, I noticed several on-lookers. No doubt they thought, “What fools.” But as Goose and I laid back on the sand and let the sun absorb the water droplets now tingling on our legs, feeling exhilarated, we both knew who the real fools were.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Magical Moment 119, "The First Step"

They say the first step to overcoming a problem is to identify it. I am the queen of psyching myself out. I can talk myself into circles and make the most microscopic problem into a catastrophic ordeal. There. I identified it. Actually, I’ve known for quite some time. It’s been my life long struggle. Since I was a child, I remember correlating two unrelated issues and tying them together to make them absolutely causal. If I didn’t memorize this one verse (out of like a thousand), I would never win the Timothy Award in Awanas. If I never won the Timothy Award, I would let down my parents, Mrs. Brooks, and myself. Therefore, if I didn’t memorize that one verse, everyone I cared about and looked up to would be disappointed in me, I would never earn their respect, and I would live my life sorry and alone.
My first year in ROTC, if I didn’t max my physical fitness test (obtain the highest score possible), I would be a horrible officer when I was commissioned three years later.

Being in the Army wasn’t enough. I had to be Airborne. I had to go to Fort Bragg. I had to get a few “first female to fill-in-the-blank” titles under my belt. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t even feel worthy to wear the uniform. I might as well work at Wal-mart.

Irrational to you, but a way of life for me. A tiring way of life. So what now? It’s a problem. Next?
Well, sorry to disappoint my readers, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I still struggle daily. I wake up in the middle of the night, panic stricken thinking, “I haven’t written a song in a while, I’ll never become a professional songwriter.” I sit through a movie thinking, “I haven’t had the carpet cleaned yet. My entire house is disgusting.” And of course, “I’m having a bad hair day. I cannot be seen in public.”
So, what can I do until I figure out the next step to overcoming this problem? Well, until I discover the exact solution, I’ll just keep telling myself those things aren’t true. Like in the movie, “A Beautiful Mind” when Russell Crowe overcame his schizophrenia and seeing imaginary people by asking those he knew were real, “Can you see him?”

I ask myself, is that true? Is that reasonable? And fight to accept what I know is truth, despite what my mind tells me. The first step is to identify the problem. And a first step, is better than no step.