Saturday, July 31, 2010

Magical moment 177, "Take Out Pizza and Joy"

Joy and I walked through the wide, open lawn outside our apartments. With gardens in full bloom and lush trees providing shelter from the summer sun, it was a picturesque scene. On this lazy Saturday afternoon, we walked by 2 older ladies relaxing in the shade, passing time with conversation and take out pizza from the Italian restaurant across the street. They each sported their own shade of white hair and were clearly enthralled in each other’s friendly company.

One of the ladies spotted Joy and gasped with pleasure. “Oh! I haven’t seen one of those dogs in ages.” She exclaimed to her friend. Overhearing her remark, I changed our course from left to right, so they could get a better look at my pride and Joy. I smiled as we approached and it was clear they longed to pet her. I cut through the grass towards their two white lawn chairs and smiled widely as they oozed over Joy.

Joy, bursting with excitement, rolled happily onto her back, exposing her tummy for bountiful scratches from her two new friends. The two ladies’ ecstatic reaction was more than the expected, “what a cute dog,” that I’m used to hearing from strangers. They were genuinely delighted. “Thanks honey,” one of them said to Joy. “You made my day.” I walked away smiling, thinking, “You actually made mine.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Magical Moment 176, "Sophie's Choice"

Never seen the movie, but I get the distinct feeling that it’s centered around a heart wrenching decision. Like choosing between vision and sight. Curing cancer or Alzheimer’s. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate. Oh the humanity.

It’s how I felt today in my very first pre-production meeting with Modern Vintage Recordings when deciding which of my songs to record. I only get 5. Rather than recording an entire album, like I originally hoped, circumstance will only allow me to record an EP (Electronic Package). An EP is a collection of about 5 tracks that are professionally and lovingly recorded with the utmost and esteemed professionalism, then used as a tool to promote the artist’s reputation and popularity in the music community. Hopefully this will allow me to book shows in NYC, radio interviews, and music reviews with local bloggers. As a relatively new artist on the NYC music scene, we decided this would be the smartest way to go, and in the future, the rest of my album will follow.

I spent hours in a tiny room with a keyboard and guitar, playing and singing all of my songs, one right after the other, while 2 producers took notes on everything from the mood, key, tempo, and overall sound of each one. I must admit, when a critique came, “Maybe we should look at reworking the chorus…” I rallied with defensiveness. Before I spoke though, I reminded myself that these are the experts. I looked around at the plaques of silver, gold, and platinum records displayed all over the walls. Listen to what they’re saying. It’s not a demand, only a suggestion. And PS, they’re probably right.

With dozens of songs in a wrinkled, spiral notebook, penned over the last 10 years of my life, I am used to hearing my music one way and one way only. Today it was time to look objectively at my songs. Make some harsh cuts. Put some on the back burner. Revamp others. And listen with a fresh ear.

I’ll admit, it was difficult to place some of my most beloved songs in the “do not record” pile. I did so with a heavy heart. Today, I said goodbye to “Sick and Tired,” “Fight For Me,” and “Mary’s Lullaby.” These are songs I always thought were the most marketable, catchy, and I just loved them with all my soul. But as we talked today, I started to understand. They would like to promote a certain “sound” that I have – a bluesy, honky-tonk, jazzy, quirky sound, that tends to come out second-nature when I play some of my piano-heavy songs like “Dimples and Brown Eyes” and “Throw Some More Dirt.” And I actually concede, it’s what I do best.

At the end of the meeting, when I cut off my right arm and left it in a bloody pile in their office, I gathered my guitar, notebooks, and lyric sheets and left. I wished I could console my lost songs. Tell them, it’s all right; there’ll be time for you later. Until then, they will always have a place as number one. Front and center. In the loving embrace of my heart.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Magical Moment 175, "Record of a Sneeze"

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. I learned that in second grade and never gave it another thought. But today, I learned that he held patents for thousands of other inventions and employed over 10,000 people in his company that literally did nothing but continuously invent stuff.

Thomas Edison National Park in West Orange, NJ is the location of his enormous “invention factory,” complete with a chemistry lab, blacksmith shop, and supply house stocked with every material imaginable from seashells to cows feet. There, he and his thousands of inventor employees, spent day after day dreaming, experimenting, and building.

It’s the spot of the very first motion picture house where Edison made the movie, “Record of a Sneeze.” It’s also where he bellowed the nursery rhyme, “Mary had a Little Lamb” into the first, crude tinfoil sound recording device.

As we walked through the museum, I learned that he worked tirelessly on his ideas, sometimes 90-100 hours a week. He is famous for quotes such as, “There is no substitute for hard work” and, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” Principles which he certainly lived by. 

It makes me wonder, did he have any idea the ripple effect that his black and white, soundless sneeze would have on the world for decades to come? It boggles my mind when I really stop to think about it. His passion and persistence literally changed the world and affected millions and millions of people.

I, like most people, am not out to change the course of the world or anything, but I do hope to contribute. To positively impact someone’s life and use my gifts the best way I know how. And maybe that will have a significant ripple effect of its own in some way. I think everyone has a passion for something. And if we recognize it, embrace it, and pursue it, there is no limit to the inspiration it can have on the world. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Magical Moment 174, "Be Your Own Hero"

A few days ago, my sister Regina told me about an idea that's been rolling around in her head for a while. She thought it would make a great blog, so I asked if she wanted to guest write on mine. As I read this, I felt so proud of all she's done and I know that she will be an inspiration to many. Most of all, to her two boys. Go here to see more of her own blog, She Lives in the Light.

"Be Your Own Hero" by Regina Teague

I grew up thinking I needed to be rescued. Everyone needs a hero, right? I didn’t really have a hero growing up. Oh, but I wanted the fairy tale. I wanted the knight in shining armor, four kids, a big house on a beautifully landscaped acreage, complete with a white picket fence. I would stay home with my four children and be the mom who made the best chocolate chip cookies and have them fresh out of the oven when they got home from school.   No joke. Seems idealistic, but I tried with all my might to create it. Well, as it turns out, life isn’t always a fairy tale. I have found myself a 29-year-old single mother of two preschoolers, no degree and no job. Not exactly where I thought I’d be in life as my thirties are fast approaching. I didn’t know how to load songs on my iPod, how to put air in a tire (still don’t) or change a tire for that matter.

I muddled through the first few months after my circumstances changed. Then one day I got the best advice I have ever received. Be your own hero. I thought back to my sister when she started college. She shocked us all and joined Army ROTC. She was quite a shy, timid child. The Army, really?!? She went to college and got a four year degree, completely paid for by the military. She ran two miles in 14 minutes, jumped out of airplanes and fought to win a place in her male-dominated branch. She learned a lot, gained confidence and now she lives in NYC and is chasing another life-long dream. Okay, so as it turns out, I did have a hero. But I needed to rescue myself. And my sister inspired me. 

No, I wasn’t particularly inspired to join the military, my kids need me. I need to be their hero too. The past several months have involved a lot of things I never thought I’d have to do. I marched myself into an attorney’s office so I could do what finally needed to be done and protect myself financially. I went on-line and applied for every government and state aid I qualified for. I bugged my mom for her nursing assistant text book, so I could re-test and become active on the Nebraska State Registry again. I applied at the University of Nebraska and picked a major. I met with an advisor and signed up for classes online. I start school in less than a month. I found a counselor and a support group to help myself and my children though our difficult transition.

Maybe those things don’t seem very heroic to you. But for me they are. In five years, I will have a job that I can easily support two kids on. We will be in a better place because of the support we receive from counseling and family/friends. We will bind together as a family of three. My children will have a strong, capable mother, the mother that God intended me to be. I can still be the mom that makes the best chocolate chip cookies and someday might even have my sister teach me how to change a tire. I admit, I still hope for my knight, but not so he can rescue me. Until that time comes however, my sons will know what it means to work hard, struggle together and come out on the other side. What does being your own hero mean to you?

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." -Christopher Reeve

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Magical Moment 173, "St Louis Blues"

This is one of my "safe songs." When I'm at a piano, deer in the headlights, eyes watching, and ears listening, there are always a few songs I can turn to to feel safe and confident. Safe songs include, among many others, "Crazy" by Patsy Cline, "Fly Me to the Moon" by Sinatra, and "Summertime" by Gershwin. St Louis Blues is one of them as well. I can play it with my eyes shut and it always sounds good. The amazing Mr Capps showed me how to play this kind of boogie-woogie and I'll be forever grateful to him. One of the best compliments I ever got from a stranger after I played this song was, "You could play that in New Orleans."

So here it is, like warm milk before bedtime, a broke in pair of jeans, or a phone conversation with an old friend. One of my favorites, St Louis Blues.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Magical Moment 172, "My Little Nerd"

Today at the dog park, I discovered that Joy does not play well with others. She’s not aggressive, mean, standoffish, or even shy. She’s downright terrified of other dogs. When we put her in the “small dog” pen, she was the largest of all the chihuahuas, terriers, and poodles, yet she darted in fear if one of them came too close. We tried to show her it was okay, playing with the other dogs and coaxing her to fetch the tennis ball. But as I watched her interact with the other dogs who were playfully wrestling and chasing each other, I felt like I was looking in on an awkward child trying to fit in at recess. Eventually, she worked up some nerve to follow the other dogs as they ran from one end of the fence to the other, but as soon as they noticed her, she backed off and walked away. The funny thing is, she melts in sheer happiness and trust when a complete stranger offers to pet her belly, basking in the interaction.

We decided to leave the dog park after watching of our little adolescent “nerd” make a few more attempts at making friends. We walked to the car, taking in the freshly cut green grass in the large park, the clear sky, and good weather. A few feet in front of us, a mother and her small daughter were enjoying the day as well on a spread out blanket. As the mother was preoccupied with folding up the stroller, the small child started towards us. She was probably less than a year old and could barely walk. She didn’t say a word either, but her eyes were deadlocked on Joy. She clomped one chubby foot in front of the other and held out one arm as if at any second, she would be able to touch the dog. I actually laughed out loud as I watched her, because she looked brainwashed and completely obsessed, almost magnetically drawn to the dog. Finally, her mother turned around and quickly stopped her daughter’s momentum as she nearly crashed into Joy. We all laughed as the mother asked if Joy was friendly. When I told her yes, the little girl began to pet her. Joy ate up the love and attention, like she always does from strangers, especially children. That’s when I decided that all nerds eventually come into their own. Joy gets along just fine. She just had to find her crowd.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Magical Moment 171, "Blue Haven"

It’s raining the kind of rain that makes you feel trapped and casts a dreary shadow on everything. It’s the kind of rain that makes Joy and the apartment smell like a wet dog when she’s only been outside for a minute. It’s the kind that makes the neighborhood weirdo seem all the more creepy because he’s standing outside in it, watching people scurry about. It’s the kind that conjures up unpredictable wind and tosses branches and debris all over the unsuspecting sidewalk and streets. Inevitably, sirens follow to aid victims caught in the storm. It’s the kind of rain that makes me fumble through the front closet in search of the one illusive flashlight among cardboard boxes and forgotten junk, in case the lights go out. It’s the kind of rain that traps me inside, like a prisoner.

And though the rain continues, and will through tomorrow, we’re safe inside a fortress made of wood and plaster. The thin glass windows that separate us from the torrential storm suddenly seem six feet thick and we’re far from the gloom. The howling wind is drowned out by music. And here we are dry, safe, and happy. I start singing the song, “Just my honey and me. And the puppy makes three. We’re happy in my blue haven.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Magical Moment 170, "Taylor"

Yesterday, I discovered that Michaels Arts and Crafts is one of the coolest stores ever. We stopped by so Eddie could pick up some paint supplies and wound up shopping for hours. I walked up and down each aisle grabbing at random items thinking, I should learn to knit or Ethan would love that train puzzle! I made a mental list of to-do projects, including but not limited to: make my own jewelry, learn basic wood-working skills, and hand-craft my own decorative holiday wreathes. To make matters worse, they were having a major clearance sale and I decided to go ahead and start my Christmas shopping.

As I made my way through the store, working my way from hand-carrying a few items, to using a store basket, to exchanging that for a cart, I thought about the things that can spark a child’s creativity (and a grown adult’s too apparently). I felt something under my foot as I took a step forward and realized it was a stray children’s book. When I bent down to pick it up and put it back in its place, I realized there was something very familiar about the bright red cover. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but something about the illustrated, brown bear and his green overalls…a missing a button I think…? It was Corduroy, the bear who lives in a department store! Now I remembered the beloved childhood book. Still straining my murky memory for the details, I read the whole story right in the middle of the shopping aisle, page by page, until I reached the end. Yes of course, he gets bought by little girl, Lisa, and they become best friends!

I smiled to myself as I placed it back on the shelf and naturally thought about my own childhood best friend bear, Taylor. My dad gave matching bears to my older sister and I when he returned from a 2-week training exercise in the National Guard. The bears wore Army camouflage, complete with boots and dog tags. Taylor and I were inseparable. I refused to go to sleep until I had him with me and Lord help my parents if he was ever misplaced for a night. Using child logic, I put Taylor and some of my other beloved animals in a pillowcase on my bed, so that if there ever was a fire in our house, I could grab them easily and carry them to safety – an idea that I passed on to my 3-year old nephew, Ethan. He too can’t leave the house without the comfort of his treasured friends, and rather than driving his mother crazy with a constant armload of stuffed animals, I showed him how to carry all of them in one simple, easy to hold pillowcase.

I still have Taylor to this day. Of course, now the stuffing is protruding through the hole in his ears, his boots are long gone, and a wooden shelf is a more suitable home for him than a pillow case by my bed. But he is still in my room, practically loved to pieces, and among my most treasured possessions. I think everyone has at least one childhood toy like that – more than a toy, but a real, true friend. And it helps shape their personality, individuality, and certainly sparks creativity for the rest of their life.

Ethan stuffing his many animals and blankets into his new pillowcase 
before we go for a walk

Friday, July 23, 2010

Magical Moment 169, "Summer Slum"

So, I’ve been going through the “summer slum.” That’s when everyone is on vacation and busy with other things, so they don’t need to hire a musician for holiday parties or elementary school programs (which happens to make up 90% of my paying gigs). I’ve been searching craigslist under the “talent” category for something that says, “Piano Player Needed for Beach Party” or “Major Record Label Ready to Sign the First Person to Respond to this Add Who Has Green Eyes.” So far, I’ve had zero luck.

But that hasn’t stopped me from my nearly neurotic diligence in finding work. While most people these days are addicted to social media – facebook, myspace, and twitter – I seem to be addicted to the online want-ads (okay okay, Scrabble games on facebook too). I mean, you should see the job ads I have to sift through. These are NOT made up (keep in mind this is New York City)…

-Nail Model
-Young Japanese Girl for Commercial
-Women with muscular calves needed
-tickling fetish - $$$ - ladies only
-foot model
-drag queens/ gay and lesbian couples wanted for photo shoot

That being said, it can be discouraging going weeks at a time without finding a single gig I could be considered for, let alone be hired and paid for. In the mean time, I’ve been watching a lot of “The Office” on instant Netflix, which is totally hilarious, but after a few hours just makes me feel all the more wretchedly unemployed.

Maybe it’s the looming hail and thunderstorm brewing outside my window. Maybe it’s the glass of wine I’ve had today. Maybe it’s my gut. Maybe it’s the 40-minute long gig I booked for the end of August at a Metaphysical church fundraiser (not sure what that is). Maybe I'm way, way off. But I feel things starting to turn. Yep. I see it now too. The trees are nearly blowing over. The kind of wind I would hate to see a year ago, right before an Airborne Operation dropped us from a C-130 aircraft over Sicily Drop Zone. It’s lightning too and raining hard. I’m pretty sure that means something. A change. In weather. In the ozone. In the season. My season is changing. Lord, I hope so. Been here nearly a year and no closer to my goal. It’s go-time now. The summer is half over and my “slum” will soon be history.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Magical Moment 168, "A Little Sweat"

This morning I sat on the couch, drinking coffee and debating for an hour whether or not to go for a run. I had fallen out of my routine after vacation a few weeks ago and dreaded the thought of conditioning myself back into shape. It was 8 am, and already insanely hot outside. Usually when that happens, I console myself by saying that I’ll wake up earlier the next morning to get a good run in.

It’s been nearly an entire year since I got out of the Army and to me, it’s a small accomplishment that I’ve been able to keep up running on my own for so long. Despite my absolute disdain for anything athletic, I really enjoy the benefits and peace of mind that I get from running. As difficult as it is to put my tennis shoes on in the morning and fight the weather, whatever time of year it may be, I know that I’ll feel better for the rest of the day if I force myself to do it. And Joy will be much better behaved if she gets her run in too. She’s gotten in the habit of running frenzied circles around the coffee table and whimpering with uncontrolled excitement when she sees me tie up my shoelaces and fasten my iPod band to my upper arm.

Today as my feet pounded the pavement, my knees throbbed, and the sweat dripped down my face, I felt good. One day closer to getting back into form. A few uninterrupted minutes to think and pray about the months to come, which will require a different kind of disciplined commitment and hard work. Because to get the results I want, will require a little sweat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Magical Moment 167, "Claire De Lune"

This is a video of me playing one of only two classical songs that I know. I forced myself to learn Claire De Lune for a wedding a few years ago and have struggled to retain it in my repertoire ever since. However, the most entertain part of this video is the "fan" towards the end of the song. Sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches. This was at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Enjoy.

More photos from Sing for Hope's Play Me, I'm Yours Project, click here.

To see videos, click here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Magical Moment 166, "Fireflies"

As fascinating as a star, or the lights on Christmas Eve.
As comforting as a doll, covered in threadbare weave.

As frenzied as the marbles, scattered across the ground.
As rare of a treat, as when the ice cream truck comes ‘round.

A homemade lamp, a glass jar, the glowing bug swirls.
A priceless ring, made with love, by grandpa for his girls.

Never was there a fonder moment seen through a child’s eyes,
Than the captivating magic and wonder of the fireflies.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Magical Moment 165, "World Mission Foundation Benefit"

This is another piece I played at Lincoln Center for a World Mission Foundation benefit concert, which raised $2,500 for AIDS/HIV funding. The director, Kevin Marin, asked specifically for a Jewish song and as luck would have it, I knew this piece from a Holocaust Remembrance Observance from my Army days. The song, a Jewish lullaby, is beautiful yet haunting, as it was heard among concentration camps during WWII. I apologize that the first few seconds are cut off. You can also see my video camera in the reflection - I had to get creative to get the clip from the professionally recorded DVD. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the performance.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Magical Moment 164, "Sunday Morning"

Early Sunday morning, I walked with Joy to get a coffee before the unbearable heat set in. I walked past the neighbor’s garden, rich with color and vibrant beauty. The grass was freshly cut, and as green as it was at the peak of spring. The rising sun cast an orange haze against the gray, empty pavement and row of seemingly deserted buildings. No cars lined up for blocks past the corner intersection. There was no crowd across the street waiting impatiently for the New York City bus to take them into work. I didn’t even have to wait to order my coffee at Dunkin Doughnuts. I smiled at the thought. Living in the most densely populated area in the country, right next to the city that never sleeps, I saw that maybe on Sunday, it at least rests.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Magical Moment 163, "Can't Buy Me Talent"

This was an article I wrote for JVH Media Group for their online music magazine. If only I could take my own advice, eh? At least I sound like I know what I'm talking about.

"Can't Buy Me Talent" by Elizabeth Grimes

It was a simpler time for the music industry back in the 1940s and 1950s. Crooners like Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and Elvis had to have one thing. Talent. A voice that dazzled in every setting, and a stage presence that entranced the audience were the only necessary ingredients needed to create a star. I guess that’s why they call it “the good old days.”

Not that today’s artists don’t have talent and stage presence. Some of them surely must. But have you ever wondered why your favorite singer sounds amazing on the album yet so different when you fork out the 200 bucks for concert tickets? I can think of a few reasons: vocal stacking (for added power), vocal auto-tune (it’s exactly what it sounds like – automatically tuning the vocal pitch with a computer), copy and pasting (so they don’t have to sing the same chorus twice, studio time is expensive), and reverb (that’s the pretty echo you hear). Not to mention a choir of back-up singers and thousands of dollars worth of microphones and state of the art equipment to filter out the tiniest vocal imperfection.

What happened to the days when Ricky Ricardo came to this country with only “Babalu,” hard work, and a bongo? Now, in order to have a fighting chance in the industry, you need thousands of dollars for a producer to record a professional track before anyone will so much as look at you. And if you haven’t recently come into your inheritance or already know someone in the biz, your dream can seem more and more unreachable.

Somewhere in our American hearts, we must still believe that true talent will prevail. Until then, fellow-broke-wannabes, heed this humble advice:

-Find an internship with a recording studio or publishing house. You’ll learn the business and meet people who can give helpful advice. The possibilities are numerous near New York or L.A.

-Go ahead, try out for American Idol. You never know.

-Plug into your local musical community, song-writer’s guild, and open-mike nights. The support and networking are half the battle.

-Consider websites such as where people worldwide can financially invest in your music career if they feel you have the talent and potential.

And finally, I know you’re sick of hearing it, but don’t give up. Keep playing, performing, and writing because in the end, American hearts are everywhere and we are pulling for you to prevail.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Magical Moment 162, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen"

In the mail today, I finally received the DVD for a performance I did last month at Clark Studio Theatre in Lincoln Center. It was a benefit concert for the World Mission Foundation, which raises money to prevent and treat AIDS/HIV. The benefit, which was directed by Kevin Marin, was a success, raising $2,500 for the Foundation.

I was asked to play a mix of well-known and original selections. One piece I particularly enjoyed learning and playing was "Beir Mir Bist Du Shoen," originally recorded by the Andrews Sisters. Surprisingly, I had never heard the song before, but since then I've added it to the "favorite" category in my repertoire.

For this performance, I was surprisingly composed for how nervous I was. Normally, when I am that nervous, I have trouble getting any sound to come out at all. Someone told me that if I can control my breath and voice after 30 seconds of intense cardio, I could control it when I'm extremely nervous. I think they were right and wasn't too disappointed with how this song turned out. I have to apologize for the poor video and sound quality. Enjoy the video anyhow.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Magical Moment 161, "Optimistic Gamble"

I’ve never put so much as a quarter into a slot machine or purchased a lottery ticket. Once I played poker with skittles. I try my best to plan ahead, be prepared, and make informed decisions. But soon, I’ll make one of the biggest gambles of my life. There are no guarantees, just nail biting, forehead perspiration, and silent prayer.

I’m about to dive, head first into creating an album with Modern Vintage Recordings. It’s a total investment of time, heart, soul, and money. And while I have full confidence in the creative team that will help give life to my songs, I know that nothing is a sure thing. It is said that only about one in twenty independent artists who finance their own album, distribution, and publicity will gain enough momentum to have a successful music career when it’s all said and done. I do not like these odds. But when my dad told me without hesitation that I was one in a million, I began to think that maybe it could happen. After all, doors have opened thus far, leading Eddie and I to this point.

So, I stack my chips neatly, and with one motion, push them to the middle of the table. “All in.” And for now, I will give my full attention to creating the best album possible. When it’s complete, I’ll worry about the return. There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Magical Moment 160, "Sunburst"

Yesterday, my husband was hard at work like I'd never seen him before. A few years ago, I bought him a painting easel to fuel his creativity, however it has rarely been used since. But yesterday, he sat on his wooden, swivel stool for hours, creating in silence. I wanted to look over his shoulder. I wanted to ask him how it was going. I wanted to know what he was painting. But I stopped myself short, understanding how those seemingly harmless actions can hinder someone who is "on a roll."

Late into the evening, he finally lifted the small, square canvas from the 3-legged easel and reluctantly handed it to me. "I painted this for you. You can name it," he said simply, unenthused, and waiting nervously for my reaction.

I immediately smiled with admiration at the array of blended colors and texture. It was a true piece of art. A star so full of beaming light, it couldn't be contained by just one snap shot. Even the largest telescope in the world couldn't capture its magnificent size, but Eddie captured all of its beauty. "It looks like a sunburst." I said. And that's what I named it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Magical Moment 158, "A Four AM Reminder"

The other day, I drove my parents and little sister to La Guardia airport after their week long visit to the Big Apple. It was 4:30 in the morning and we were all exhausted. We rode mostly in silence through the dark, deserted streets of New Jersey, Manhattan, and Queens. The only noise came from the radio that was at half volume playing Madonna’s “Ray of Light,” a popular 90s song that reminded me of my high school days. I suddenly thought of the one person who wasn’t there, my older sister Regina.

The early car ride, dark morning, and song took me directly back to Regina and I's high school paper route. I laugh to myself every time I think about those days. I scarcely remember doing it. I suppose because I was in such a sleepy stuper most of the time. I do remember that music though. The good thing about being in a car at 4 in the morning, is radio stations don’t play commercials. So at least we got uninterrupted Alanis Morsette, Backstreet Boys, and Ace of Base. There was one song by Natalie Merchant, where she repeats the phrase, “I want to thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over again. I think one of the hardest times I ever laughed in my life is when Regina started singing, “You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you're welcome” back to her. I know, our sense of humor was way off balance in those early morning hours, but I still smile when I remember it.

I had often thought the week before as our family minus one, looked out over the top of the Empire State Building, and gasped in awe at the majesty and emotion of the Statue of Liberty, Regina would like this. But as we unloaded the suitcases at the terminal and I said goodbye to my family, I knew she had been there with us the whole time and until we were all together again in person, pictures, e-mail, thoughts, and memories would be enough.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Magical Moment 157, "The Boys I Love"

What I love most about this short video is not the fact that my two nephews, who I love more than life, are adorably banging on the piano with no rhyme or reason, although that is super cute. I watched it over and over and saw the same thing clearer each time. Zach can scarcely contain the pure, exuberant joy and happiness that uncontrollably overflows from his tiny, butterball body. He’s happy because he’s sitting next to his big brother who he loves and wants to be just like. He’s happy because his big brother is smiling and playing with him. He’s happy because he is in his Papaw and Granny’s house, a safe and comfortable place in his small world. And I believe he is happy because he is creating the funny sound that’s coming from that big, brown box. All is right in his world right now.

And although I am not there in person to applaud after the boys’ musical masterpiece is complete, I'm happy to at least witness those moments of total joy in the lives of the 2 little boys I love.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Magical Moment 156, "My Debut in Time Square"

The first time I saw the lights of Times Square in the heart of Manhattan, my jaw dropped in disbelief. My eyes wandered to the sky as I searched for the top of buildings that seemed to go on and on forever. I was surrounded by theaters, restaurants, music, cars, and people. There is almost no use in attempting to describe what I saw, because there is nothing I could say that would do it justice. I felt like an insignificant ant, swarming in the midst of hundreds of other ants, with skyscrapers for blades of grass that sprang up from the ground, and pavement for dirt.

I was so pleased to see that 2 pianos had been placed in Times Square for the Play Me, I'm Yours project. As I sat down to play, I remember thinking how absolutely surreal it was that I was there. In the Big Apple. Doing what I love. I hope in my future, there are many more moments of that feeling.

To see more photos from Play Me, I'm Yours, click here.
To see more videos, click here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Magical Moment 155, "Gaga for Erica"

Today I woke up at 4 am, walked for blocks, and stood in line for 5 hours to watch a concert in the pouring rain. My little sister, Erica, and I were squished like sardines in a crowd of over 18,000 hoping to catch a glimpse of the fabulous Lady Gaga. And on top of everything, we wore blue and purple wigs all over Manhattan just for the occasion. I told Erica months ago that Lady Gaga would be playing Rockefeller Center the Friday she was in town and to my surprise, she was hell bent on going.

When all was said and done, we ended up behind the stage, across the street, and around the corner for the duration of the performance. I snapped one very fuzzy picture of the entertainer from a half-mile away. And even the enormous Today Show sound system and speakers didn’t have enough juice to pump adequate volume as far back as we were. Yet, we stayed for hours. And when it rained, no, down poured, we still stayed. Through pushy rude crowds, cranky children, and stuffy humid weather, we stayed until the bitter end.

I love New York. I love a good concert. I love good music. But I started to think these circumstances were too high a price to pay for anything. I thought, as I sat in my one by one square foot of personal space, “The only person I would want to do this for EVER, is Dolly Parton (my absolute favorite singer).” But as it turns out, there are TWO people I would do it for. And the other, is my sister.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Magical Moment 154, "Jackson Heights"

There were so many wonderful moments during the "Play Me, I'm Yours" project throughout New York City. I just have to post a few of my favorites. This was in Queens at the Jackson Heights Post Office. The song, "You Want Me," is not one of my favorite songs that I've written, yet I always get positive feedback and I do love to play it. I only got the courage to sing at the pianos a few times and this was one of them. Enjoy the video.

To see more photos from Play Me, I'm Yours, click here.
To see more videos, click here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Magical moment 153, "A Day of Critters"

Today, two things happened to me that never before, and probably never will happen again. First, I hand fed a group of baby swans, and second, I was kissed on the cheek by a sea lion.

As my family and I drove through Long Island, we decided to stop at a beautiful, old cemetery to read some of the dates on the tombstones, which went all the way back to the 1600s. As we took in the history and scenery, I noticed a small, picturesque pond with a mother swan and her 6 babies swimming peacefully through the reflective water. I immediately reached for the Ritz crackers that were shoved in the back of the car and raced to the pond in hopes that a few crumbs would reach the babies. I tossed a few handfuls out and soon their interest sparked. Before I knew it, the small, fuzzy birds inched closer and closer to me. Soon they were on the grass a few feet in front of me. I decided to see just how brave they would get and lured them in close enough to take a cracker from my hand. I was thrilled to be so close to the adorable creatures and longed to scoop one up and squeeze it. I didn’t though, and soon I was out of crackers and said a fond farewell to the baby swans and their mother.

Who knew, only a few hours later, I would have another sentimental encounter with a loveable aquatic animal. We stopped at a local aquarium that housed everything from sharks, to penguins, to sting rays, to sea lions. After watching the playful creatures perform a 15 minute show of tricks and entertainment, the sea lions gave out kisses to their adoring fans. Again, I was overwhelmed with joy as I felt the sea lion’s wet face and whiskers plant one right on my cheek.
What an amazing day. I hope these sweet creatures enjoyed these moments as much as I did.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Magical Moment 152, "Summertime"

Sing for Hope's 'Play Me, I'm Yours' project is officially over. I watched the movers roll away a brown, upright piano from Stone Street and thought about the 2 weeks it had spent outdoors in the elements with only a plastic tarp for shelter. I thought about the endless hours we spent walking through the 5 boroughs, searching for each of the 60 pianos as we baked in the heat, yet the pianos never got relief from the sun. One thing I know for certain as I tend to my sunburn and wipe the dripping sweat from my forehead, it is summertime! And this was a great way to kick off the season. Enjoy this clip, "Summertime," from one of the Central Park pianos.

To see my photos from our piano hunt, click here.
To see more videos, click here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Magical moment 151, "Sweet Secret Moment"

Some of the best moments are the ones accidentally seen. I was the only person in the world to witness this one.

A mother was trying desperately to entertain her young toddler and distract him from the heat as they waited outside for the fireworks show to begin. She sang to him, played games, and did everything in her power to get him to interact with her, and distract him from the excruciating boredom and fatigue. The little boy was only about a year old, with wide, brown eyes, and black eyelashes that reached up to his thick eyebrows. He didn’t speak. He only stared at his mother with a questioning look on his small, round face.

“Donde esta Ricardo?” His mother asked in a high pitched, playful voice. “Where is he? Donde esta Ricardo?” Still, the boy showed no sign of interest in the game. She persisted however, coaxing him to play along. “Donde esta Ricardo?” Eventually, the mother gave up on the one-sided game and with a shrug of her shoulders, she turned around to tend to her older children who were arguing over potato chips.

As soon as her back was turned, I saw little Ricardo tentatively reach up with his small hands and put them over his eyes. He mischievously smiled, peeked through a little crack in his fingers, and then jerked them back down to his side as if to say, “Peek-a-boo! Here I am!” But his mother did not see. He was too late. He tried once more, but now his mother was preoccupied. He didn’t seem to mind though. As he turned away from his mother, I caught his gaze and smiled at him. He smiled back, then bashfully looked away. What a sweet, secret moment.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Magical Moment 150, "A Few Priceless Moments"

Today we plan to fight the crowds, the heat, and the traffic, all to catch an unobstructed view of the magnificent fireworks show put on by Macy’s Department Store over the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. This is our first 4th of July in this area and will be vastly different than the home town parades and celebrations that I'm used to in Nebraska. I wouldn't miss fireworks for the world though. Ever since I was a little girl, I've been fascinated with them, and thought, "This must be what real magic looks like."

After doing our research on the subject, we learned that in order to have a fighting chance at claiming a good piece of ground, we should arrive no later than 4 pm for the 9 pm show. There will be no funnel cake stands, ferris wheels, or arts and crafts booths to entertain us while we wait in the stifling heat and humidity. Instead we’ve packed a cooler full of picnic food, a blanket, a radio, and board games.

Eddie and I went through a similar experience on Thanksgiving when we decided to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We arrived at 6 am to find a parking spot, staked out about 3 square feet of personal space, and stood for hours in the cold. There were no restrooms or porta-potties and we wound up with a parking ticket, despite our careful reading of all the traffic signs and regulations.

The funny thing is, we were two of millions going through this series of events that to anyone else, sounds like an awful headache. And even more funny, we’ll probably do it all again next year. There is something unexplainably special about these holiday celebrations. They create excitement, anticipation, and an uncharacteristic willingness to go through the most tiresome and strange things. But as we contemplate all the meaning and significance of today and other holidays, we know the difficulties will only last a few hours but the payment for all our effort is a lifetime of memories and stories about the time we got to watch a few moments of magic.

Happy Independence Day!

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom."
-Albert Einstein

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Magical Moment 149, "Cold Cold Heart in Brooklyn"

Brooklyn Bridge Park was another jewel we found on our journey to play 60 pianos in the 5 boroughs. We discovered several locations with a beautiful view of the water, the Manhattan skyline, and the Statue of Liberty. This particular spot was even more special because of the by stander who encouraged me to keep playing song after song, even though I had only intended to play one, then move on to the next piano.

I also thought that the artist who painted this piano put a lot of time and care into their design. I wish I had gotten the name of the painter. Anyways, enjoy this clip of "Cold Cold Heart" (boogie-woogie style) and the lovely view caught on camera by Eddie.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Magical Moment 148, "One Piece at a Time"

In preparation for my family’s upcoming visit, I’ve been de-cluttering our cramped apartment to make room for three extra people for a week. This involved a great deal of sorting, vacuuming, and shoving random junk into the hot, hard-to-get-to attic. Along the way were many exclamations of, “Oh, there that is!” and, “I thought we lost that in the move.”

Eddie re-discovered one of his Christmas gifts from 2 years ago - a do it yourself stepping stone creation kit. You poor cement into a hexagon-shaped mold and then craft a design using pieces of broken, colored glass. I bought him this in North Carolina when we had a house, yard, and garden, but we never got around to constructing the lawn ornament. Instead it was lost in the shuffle along with other back-shelf items when we moved to New Jersey.

Today of all days, we decided to tackle the job and sat outside mixing and pouring cement. We brain stormed ideas of what the design should be, deciding between a generic pattern or something a little more personal. In the end, we decided it should be somewhat personalized and agreed on a heart in the middle with both of our initials, and 2 small symbols that represent each of us. I chose a music note, and Eddie chose a turtle (you would get it if you knew him).

Creating a design from small, misshaped fragments turned out to be more difficult than we thought. We sorted colors and mapped out a rough idea of the plan on a piece of cardboard. Finally we began to set each piece of glass into the cement. After a few carefully placed pieces, I had my misgivings about how the product would turn out. But as we continued, one piece at a time, it soon came together. In an hour, we had our beautifully formed, one of a kind creation, proudly displayed on the shared lawn in front of our apartment.

It seems everything in life is a metaphor for life. We have a rough idea of how we think it should go, we have our misgivings, but it all turns out in the end, if we just take it one piece at a time.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Magical Moment 147, "Gantry Plaza State Park"

I've posted "Sparrow" before. It's one of my favorite songs that I've written. As I was touring pianos for Sing for Hope's Play Me, I'm Yours project in New York City, I soon found that after several dozen pianos, my performing repertoire of well-known songs was running low! I resorted to singing a few of my own and I'm glad I did. This location in Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens was so beautiful. Eddie did a great job capturing the surroundings as camera man. Hope you enjoy.

"Sparrow" words and music by Elizabeth Grimes, Copyright 2009